PeerCentered is a space for peer writing tutors/consultants or anyone interested in collaborative learning in writing centers to blog with their colleagues from around the world. Bloggers here will share their ideas, experiences, or insight. To contribute to the blog, please contact Clint.Gardner@slcc.edu.
A Tutor’s Role: Avoid being Eulah-Beulah or the Village Voice
In On Writing: A Memoir on the Craft,
Stephen King writes, “In many ways, Eulah-Beulah prepared me for literary
criticism. After having a two-hundred-pound babysitter fart on your face and
yell Pow!, The Village Voice holds few terrors.” The Village Voice and Eulah-Beulah’s
of the world are not models for good tutors. A tutor is not a babysitter or a critic,
not an editor and chiefly not the writer.
at what something is not, helps to clarify what it is. A tutor is a reader and needs
to avoid becoming the writer. Writing is a form of thinking—on paper—and the tutor’s
role is to help writers
to think about their writing. It’s the physical evidence of critical thinking. Understanding
how writers organize information and helping them to rethink that information
and organization is part of the tutor’s job. One task needed to accomplish this
is distinguishing higher-order from later-order issues and prioritizing higher-order
issues first. Focus on the 3-4 most important aspects of the paper that could
be problems. These issues might not be noticeable to writers and tutors will
most likely need to bring them (skillfully) to their attention.
become aware of the issues in their papers, it’s up to them to devise solutions.
Tutors must trust writers are able to do this and not do their work for them. By
asking questions that help writers to revise and improve, a tutor guides them
to think through their work and come up with better choices. At the same time,
this tactic insures a tutor’s comments aren’t overly directive. Questions that
are open, not closed, work best and allow writers to think more deeply about
big issues in a paper doesn’t involve proofreading, editing for grammar or word
choice—a topic that writers often focus on. Leaving this later-order concern until
last is smart tutoring. It avoids spending time on sentences that writers will eventually
cut. Sentence structure, grammar and punctuation do have their place in the
tutoring session, after dealing with the higher-order concerns. At this point,
resist the temptation to become an editor. It’s best to note repeated errors, explain
the rule, and correct one error as an example. Help the writer find and fix the
additional errors. Writers won’t learn if tutors do all the correcting.
A tutor should be
specific about what works well in the paper and what needs improvement. Thinking
through ways to ask the right question is essential. What’s the author’s
position? The writer's position? What other evidence might support this? Does this example
support the writer's main idea? And always remember to give positive feedback. This is
a good example! You really nailed the conclusion! Stephen King’s how-to book
about writing warns us, “If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I
suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it…”—that person
shouldn’t be a writer's tutor.
I have posted a poll in the IWCA forums: IWCA Forum: Peer Tutor => What do we call ourselves: the poll! It is a part of an earlier discussion that kind of petered out about the titles used for writing center workers. Please take a moment and vote! If you don't have an account on the forum, you can register for one by clicking on the "Register" link (next to the rocket icon in the top-right of the page.) Don't forget to state your institutional affiliation when you request and account. (That's how the IWCA Forum keeps out spam accounts.)
So, I was driving to school today and as always was listening to NPR (that's my self-promoting conversational piece informing you on how intelligent and connected I am) really, I just like the coverage on the campaign and "This American Life." Okay, I am already getting off topic and I haven't even gotten on topic yet. Anyhow, the story I was listening to was about a woman who used to be a part of the admissions committee at Dartmouth and is now working as an independent consultant helping students with the admissions process for schools. For a cool $40,000, she will work with you from 9th grade to graduation to help prepare you for your college admissions process. And for the budget price of $14,000, she will help you write and revise your college application essay. So, how in the world does this correlate to our world? Well, her work with college applications includes helping students decide on effective topics (staying away from "teen angst, or
As a frightened freshman, I wandered deep in the bowels of the library basement. My eyes darted from room number to room number, looking for the aid my professor promised I could find. At the end of the hall, a golden light shone from an open doorway. My approach was slow and I lingered on the threshold. All uncertainty vanished when I was greeted with a smile and welcomed into the new world of the Tutoring Center. At the time, I did not know I would spend most of my weekdays in that room as a senior or how mundane this new world would become. How could I? I didn’t even know how much insight I would receive from my tutor that day! Being a learner in the writing center is a wholly different experience than being a tutor, yet I know many of my colleagues have not had the same learning experiences that I have. I think this is unfortunate because there is much that a tutor can gain from being a learner. It was my freshman year of college and everything was new. For me, that meant that fear