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Reflection: The Role of the Tutor

I think the most important role the tutor can play is to really listen to the student and try to understand where they’re coming from with their writing. If you assume a student is going one direction when really they’re trying to go in a different direction neither of you will get anything out of working together. But by listening and allowing the student to talk, you’re also giving them the opportunity to be heard which is usually what writing is all about. 
Another thing the tutor can do is ask questions that will help the student come to their own conclusions, while also sliding in subtle hints to improve the work without hijacking it. You have to remember this is their writing, not yours. It's easy to cross that line when you get caught up in the writing because you know the answer, but they will never learn anything if you just do it for them. They may need help coming up with the answers, but they should be the ones finding them. 


  1. I agree with your post, Jamie. Tutoring is centered around helping the writer improve, not to satisfy some pet peeve of the mentor. It is important to remember that the writer may be sharing personal information in their writing and mentors should respect that.

  2. Listening does play a vital role when acting as a tutor. The student first needs to be heard and understood. As a tutor, I believe that it is our job to help students, but we must also give them many avenues to think for themselves. You were correct when you said that students must do their own work, but in the process we must help them come to different conclusions. It's almost like a team effort, only your the coach guiding the player with the next move they should make.

  3. Interesting post. I'm glad you shared your thoughts with us all. I get what you mean when you say that as tutors, we should be more prone to listening rather than speaking when it comes to assisting someone writing. What thoughts to you have pertaining to race/ethnicity within writing centers? Do you see advantages or disadvantages in having all "white" tutors in a writing center comprised of diverse ethnic groups? I ask because I attend a college a large array of cultural backgrounds, yet all of our tutors in the Writing Center are all "white".......every single one. Thanks again for sharing!

    1. Canaan, I think having all "white" tutors in a writing center full of different ethnic groups can be looked at as more of a disadvantage. For one, I'm sure it's harder for some of the students to really open up if they don't share a connection with their tutor. That's the whole point in getting help with your writing, you're opening yourself up to be scrutinized. I also think by having a diverse group of tutors you get a better array of perspectives because of the different cultures they may have grown up in. Having said all that, I do think one could still get what they need out of the writing center with any tutor no matter their ethnicity. While you may miss out on some cultural perspectives, you still get another opinion on your writing and someone to listen to you and bounce ideas off of. That's usually more than the writer had to begin with.

    2. I observed a session in our writing center where the tutor, who sounded like she had been raised speaking English in the U.S., happened to have the same ethnic background as the ESL student she was working with. The tutor said she's conscientious about making everyone she works with feel comfortable, but she did say it was nice for this particular student that they both had the same ethnic background. Ideally, the tutors in a school's writing center would be representative of the ethnic diversity of the student body, and I think a school should actively work toward that goal. Tutors do need to have a clear grasp of the English language -- assuming that students are assigned to write their college papers in English -- but I imagine ESL students might find it really helpful to have a tutor who also spoke or understood the student's first language.


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