REFLECTION: The role of the tutor in helping with writing.

For me the role of a tutor is one who helps the student with what they are having trouble with. The student is coming to the tutor for help. The tutor should know more than the student, that’s why they are a tutor. The tutor should be able to recognize the problems within the problem, if it’s math, or in the case of English the tutor should be able to see where the piece needs work; whether its grammar errors, punctuation or they should just be able to answer the student’s questions. If the student feels that their piece is too wordy the tutor should give suggestion as to where the piece could use some cutting back.
The tutor can show the student what they might not be able to see. This can help the student learn about how they write. If they struggle with grammar errors the tutor can show them the errors and how to fix them. It should be a learning experience for the student and the tutor. It should not be more work for the tutor by the tutor doing it themselves. It can be easier to just take over but the student is not learning. Let me use myself as an example.
I have had good and bad experiences with tutors. I admit I am terrible at math. I am an English major for a reason. I was very happy when I found out that my school had a math lab with tutors. I spent most of my first semesters of college in the math lab. I was there so much I should have paid rent. I would have never gotten through those math classes without a tutor to help me. I didn’t want to be great at math; I just wanted to understand how the problems worked and how to do them on my own without a tutor.
The not so good experiences came from the tutors who ran through the problems assuming that I would just understand and “get it.” It didn’t happen for me. Part of the reason I am not so good at math is due to my dyslexia. I tend to see numbers backwards when they are written down (27 becomes 72) and when the tutor rushed through the steps of the problem I became more confused. I felt like some tutors were getting impatient with me when I didn’t understand it after they did it for me.  
I understood the problems and how to do them more when the tutor took the time to help me and walk me through it. They didn’t seem rushed to help another student and I felt better doing the work. I became very happy when one tutor got excited with me when I finally understood it. I still don’t understand a lot of math but due to some awesome tutors I have remembered what they helped me with and it has helped me pass a pre-requisite class and I am finally moving on in this subject.
As a tutor we should help the student feel the same way; that they are moving on in their writing. We should focus on the positive more than the negative. If a student brings in a piece of work and it looks like the most horrible thing the tutor has ever seen, they should give the positive first and the negative second AND they should end the meeting on a positive note. Have the student feel good about what they wrote and better about their writing style. In turn we as the tutor will feel better about what we were able to teach them and it will make us feel better about the work we are doing as the tutor. 

Image from The Far Side, Gary Larsen No copyright intended.


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  2. Good insights on your own positive vs. negative tutoring experiences from the student's perspective. That's the basis of empathy, which will help you be more effective as a tutor yourself.

    Your reflection has inspired me to think about the following things and to share them now as a list of thoughts (in process), rather than waiting until I've crafted a perfectly polished product:

    Math vs. English, or Concrete Thought vs. Abstract Thought
    - Many ways to arrive at the one and only correct numerical answer vs. many ways to arrive at many different acceptable expressions of ideas through words.
    - Clear and easy to know when the student has "got it" because they (yes, I'm using the grammatically incorrect, gender-neutral "they" instead of he or she) get the one right answer (PRODUCT) vs. knowing the student has "got it" because they feel good about their PROCESS leading to the creation of a complex, multidimensional product
    - Once a student masters the process, they have no further need to work with a tutor vs. once a student masters the process, they continue to benefit in perpetuity from the feedback of a tutor, peer or colleague

    Positive tutoring experience vs. Negative tutoring experience
    - Tutor as coach, teammate and cheerleader vs. tutor as timekeeper, scorekeeper and judge
    - Student-driven pace vs. tutor-driven pace
    - Focus on student success/process ("Hurray! You got it!") vs. focus on tutor success/product ("Seriously, why aren't you getting this? What's wrong with you?")
    - Knowledgeable tutor is still learning along with the student and can model a learning process through the tutor's actions, based on student input vs. "expert" tutor seeks to transmit knowledge to student in a predetermined, fixed manner, regardless of student input

    Finally, what if students could learn any subject that they found difficult through a one-to-one tutoring relationship where the student drove the pace and the tutor was creative and flexible enough to help the student discover how the student could best relate to and connect with the subject material? It would require more instructional time and effort than traditional large-group classroom methods, but students would own their individual learning process and could truly learn anything they wanted to!

  3. Anonymous1:45 PM

    I really enjoyed reading this. I try to learn something from each experience, good and bad. I'm glad my writing helped you. ☺


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