Take the bitter with the sweet.

I've had many sessions in the past. They have been so many different situations, some were: pleasant, confusing, inspiring, plain, or just simply unusual. Today I saw another that is not the top of my list but it had me thinking. This student I worked with in particular had a very..bold personality. 

It seemed like a casual day, I was trying to reassure my body that it indeed time to wake up. The student stood by the door as if inspiration could be found on the blank wall. I offered to take him, I was unaware that this specific session would be one to remember. It started fairly dull, I asked what specifically he wanted help with, "anything, maybe grammar, look at my conclusion." As common practice I asked if we read it aloud. ( A bit about me, I stutter when I read aloud. My mind reads faster than I can speak.Most students don't say anything.) He looked up at me irritably and snootily questioned, "Are you sure you're qualified for this?"  The statement was completely serious, no humor behind it. That was the first hint that this session was going to be rough.

Through different parts of the session he tried to challenge me with knowledge, as if it were to make clear he was dominant. It was maddening. I played it cool, let it roll off my back and continued on. I noticed there was a massive tone change half way through when it talks about biology. I mentioned that the tone change is obvious in the way he used the biology vocabulary. "That's as basic as you can get. If I were to be any simpler in how I said it, I may as well say it's magic." All writers have freedom with their piece, I couldn't believe I had to repeat that if he want's to keep it he can. This is just my advice.

 I thought it ceased when I mentioned a significant amount of points in the paper that could be improved. He said I helped him and that I was not a waste of his time. At the end of the session he gave this clearly snotty grin and started inquiring me how I felt about some technical term for a comma. I don't remember what it was so I asked for a reminder. Suddenly I was in a small debate. 

This is one in about two hundred type of session. I discussed the session with Clint and I can see that it may have just been his personality. I can understand that, if it weren't he possibly wouldn't have even come in or say it wasn't a waste of his time. Even though I'm getting past this session, part of me feels like he'll be discussing my session as a "failure" to others. 
I won't let the session effect my future sessions or my attitude toward helping other students in the future, it will however stay aware in case something similar happens again.


  1. Wow Kenyon! I am sorry that happened to you. For what it's worth, when I came to you for some help on my paper you provided me amazing insight which led to a great grade. If you would like, I can send it to you so you can see how your positive influence and insight assisted in growing my writing.
    Thank you for your tutoring, and don't worry about any one's opinion (especially Mr. Arrogant) because people with personalities like that don't matter and are likely friendless.

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  3. Sounds similar to a student's paper I read aloud awhile back.

    When I was younger, I was diagnosed with dyslexia, and while today I might have a firmer grasp on my disorder, I am by no means "cured." It's not one of those things that just goes away. (As I write this, I've already revised or second-guessed this sentence at least six times.) It's part of why I pursued an English major.

    But anyway--as I was reading this student's paper aloud, I stumbled on a simple article and substituted it for some other arbitrary word. Actually, I did this more than once. I did this about a dozen times. After awhile the student just looked at me askance and asked, "Is it my paper, or are you just unable to read?"

    Now normally I'd have retorted with my own snide remark, but I enjoy my job too much to let someone ruin that with a cheeky attitude. So I simply smiled and said, "No, I'm just another fallible human being." (Except I substituted "fallible" with fallacious, which lead to over correction, which then lead to me explaining that I had dyslexia and what I really meant to say was fallible...) Needless to say, the student apologized and we continued with her paper.

    I don't think it's at all inappropriate to tell someone they're being rude, especially when they're being just that. Of course, there are less accusatory ways to go about it, but ultimately everyone deserves to be treated in kind.

    Sometimes people just need to be reminded that hey, you're human too.

  4. Kamila, NSU12:29 PM

    Hi Kenyon,

    From your post, it sounds like you handled the session as best as you could. Because we are peer tutors and often around the same age as our students, there will be those memorable ones that try to "test" how qualified we are. Most times, this is likely because those students want to project their own insecurities onto their tutor. What I do in these situations is let them ask their questions.

    Like you, I try and remain calm. I will answer the questions I know, redirecting ones like "Are you sure you're qualified for this?" with "You know, I would say I am but I make mistakes like anyone else. Let's get back to your assignment."

    If I don't know how to respond to a question, maybe about grammar -- this doesn't seem like it was the case for you -- I admit it. Then, I either look it up with the student or refer them to someone who does know the answer (maybe another tutor who is in the office at the time).

    We are student tutors and we do make mistakes (even professionals make mistakes). I agree with wiramu.wall's comment: "Sometimes people [even not-so-nice tutees] just need to be reminded that hey, you're human too."


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