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Kocher 1   Tutoring  Reflection    

During T.A.   training   I   spent   a   few   hours   in   the   RWC   learning   the   ropes   of   being   a  

tutor —   applying   techniques   I   had   read   about   in   class   and   internalizing   the   tips   that   had   been   given   to   me   by   Dr.   Wells   and   fellow   tutors.   During   the   five   sessions   I   observed   and   participated  in,  I  was  able  to  see  a  lot  of  the  theory  we  had  read  at  work,  and  I  was  able  to   use   a   lot   of   what   I   had   learned   to   help   the   students   who   came   in.   After   having   spent   so   much   time   reading   about   what   being   a   tutor   involved,   it   was   really   interesting   to   finally   have   a   chance   to   use   it   in   a   hands-­‐on   situation,   and   figure   out   what   worked   best   for   me,   as   well  as  what  worked  best  for  the  students  I  was  helping.  During  these  few  sessions,  I  feel   like   I’ve   learned   a   lot   about   what   to   expect   out   of   my   tutoring   sessions.   Though   the   five   students   I   observed   and   worked   with   were   all   mostly   looking   for   help   with   revisions   on   fairly  complete  drafts,  they  all  had  different  questions  and  concerns,  and  each  session  was  a   very   distinct   experience.   I   feel   that   it   is   likely   that   many   of   the   skills   I   applied   in   helping   these   students   with   revisions   will   be   equally   useful   as   I   help   others   at   various   points   along   the  writing  process.      

The first   tutoring   session   I   observed   was   with   a   student   who   was   working   on   a  

research paper   comparing   aspects   of   the   Bible   and   The   Lord   of   the   Rings.   Opening   the   session,  Amber  asked  the  student  what  he  was  most  concerned  about  and  warned  him  that   she   wouldn’t   be   able   to   make   it   through   the   entire   paper   due   to   its   length.   As   she   read   through  the  paper  out  loud,  her  major  focus  was  helping  him  make  sure  that  his  thesis  was   clearly  present  throughout  the  entirety  of  the  essay.  Upon  completing  the  introduction,  she   asked   him   to   identify   his   thesis,   and   as   she   continued   reading,   she   repeatedly   asked   him   to   relate  each  paragraph  back  to  this  idea,  which  seemed  very  helpful.  Continuing  through  the  

Kocher 2   paper,   she   also   pointed   out   errors   and   helped   him   correct   them,   focusing   is   on   mistakes   that  she  saw  repeatedly,  such  as  introducing  quotations  and  consistency  of  terminology.  As   she  was  helping  him  make  these  corrections,  I  noticed  that  Amber  was  always  careful  not   to   just   tell   him   what   to   do,   or   how   to   change   what   he   had   written;   rather,   she   gave   suggestions   and   asked   questions   that   encouraged   the   student   to   form   the   corrections   on   his  own.  This  speaks  to  what  Severino  (2004)  discusses  in  “Avoiding  Appropriation,”  where   she  writes  that  “most  tutoring  guides  …  also  recommend  that  tutors  not  interfere  with  their   students’   control   of   their   texts.   They   advocate   the   tutor   roles   of   collaborator,   facilitator,   coach,   and   consultant   rather   than   more   teacherly,   controlling   and   directive   roles   of   informant,  editor,  and  evaluator”  (p.  51).  She  helped  him  discover  what  he  wanted  to  say   without  telling  him  exactly  how  to  word  it  —  he  maintained  control  over  the  paper,  despite   the  fact  that  she  was  helping  him  find  better  ways  to  organize  his  thoughts  and  ideas.     During   the   second   session,   Amber   was   helping   a   student   with   a   position   shift   paper   that  focused  on  the  ways  that  the  deaths  of  loved  ones  and  her  understanding  of  abortion   influenced  the  way  that  the  student  viewed  and  appreciated  life.  The  focus  of  this  session   was  on  figuring  out  how  to  tie  the  two  parts  of  the  paper  together  —  in  her  current  draft,   the   two   sections   seemed   fairly   unrelated.   This   session   was   somewhat   difficult,   not   only   because  of  the  content  of  the  paper,  but  also  because  of  the  sheer  amount  of  feedback  to  be   considered.  The  student  had  just  come  from  a  conference  with  her  teacher,  so  Amber  had   to  balance  the  suggestions  made  by  the  teacher  and  the  desires  of  the  student  with  her  own   ideas   of   how   to   improve   the   paper.   In   “The   First   Five   Minutes:   Setting   the   Agenda   in   a   Writing   Conference,”   Newkirk   (1989)   writes   that   in   conferences   we   “must   balance   two   opposing   mandates:   on   the   one   hand   to   respond   to   the   student,   to   evaluate,   to   suggest  

Kocher 3   possible  revisions  and  writing  strategies;  and  on  the  other  to  encourage  the  student  to  take   the  initiative,  to  self-­‐evaluate,  to  make  decisions,  to  take  control  of  the  paper”  (p.  317-­‐318).   Because   the   teacher   had   given   feedback   on   the   organization   and   content   of   the   paper,   Amber  focused  in  on  ways  to  link  the  two  sections  together.  She  suggested  that  the  student   incorporate   more   information   about   both   topics   into   the   introduction   and   conclusion   to   show   the   ways   they   are   related,   but   left   most   of   the   work  —   determining   how   to   do   this  —   to  the  student.  In  doing  so,  Amber  helped  the  student  find  a  way  to  improve  the  cohesion  of   the  paper  without  telling  her  how  to  fix  it.     I  was  co-­‐tutoring  with  Amber  for  my  third  session  in  the  RWC.  She  still  had  “control”   over  the  session,  but  I  would  often  jump  in  with  suggestions  concerning  the  problems  she   was  pointing  out,  and  it  was  fun  to  bounce  ideas  back  and  forth  with  the  student.  He  was   working   on   a   primary   source   analysis,   and   though   he   was   initially   very   concerned   about   whether  or  not  the  essay  he  wrote  was  appropriate  for  the  genre,  we  ended  up  spending   most   of   our   time   identifying   patterns   of   errors   in   his   paper.   One   of   the   biggest   patterns   we   discovered  was  his  confusion  over  when  to  use  past  or  present  tense.  Linville  (2004)  talks   about  identifying  these  patterns  as  a  means  of  teaching  students  to  self  edit  in  “Editing  Line   by   Line,”   claiming   that   “convincing   a   student   that   learning   to   edit   his   own   papers   is   both   possible   and   necessary,   however,   is   a   difficult   task   for   a   tutor,   a   task   that   requires   persistent  and  consistent  effort”  (p.  85).  Amber  initially  pointed  out  these  inconsistencies   in  tense  by  telling  him  the  corrections,  but  as  we  moved  through  the  paper,  she  would  have   him   tell   us   the   proper   tense,   and   eventually   he   would   just   mark   the   errors   so   that   he   could   return  to  them  later  as  we  addressed  concerns  about  clarity  and  the  use  of  quotations.  As  

Kocher 4   with   the   previous   sessions,   we   tried   to   continually   ask   questions   about   the   paper   as   a   means  of  helping  him  clarify  and  organize  his  ideas,  and  this  seemed  to  be  quite  effective.     My  fourth  tutoring  session  was  the  first  time  I  was  tutoring  on  my  own.  The  student   was  working  on  his  final  paper  for  an  Intro  to  Shakespeare  course,  and  rather  than  wanting   major   help   with   revisions,   he   was   most   concerned   with   his   citations,   because   he   hadn’t   used   MLA   before   this   class.   I   helped   him   fix   his   works   cited   page,   and   showed   him   some   features   of   the   Purdue   OWL   site   he   hadn’t   found   himself.   More   than   anything   else,   I   was   just   helping   him   figure   out   how   to   use   the   resources   he   already   had   more   effectively.   During   the   second   half   of   the   session,   he   took   over   and   read   through   his   paper   out   loud,   and  found  nearly  all  of  the  mistakes  himself.  Most  of  his  questions  were  about  confirming   the  corrections  that  he  was  planning  on  making,  and  it  was  really  cool  to  see  how  many  of   the   mistakes   he   was   able   to   catch   on   his   own.   In   “Self-­‐Efficacy   and   Writing,”   McCarthy,   Meier,   and   Rinderer   (1985)   write   that   “if   writing   difficulties   result   not   only   from   an   inability  to  solve  writing  problems,  but  also  from  one’s  own  decision  that  one  is  unable  to   solve   them,   then   one   important   step   in   improving   writing   would   be   to   strengthen   individuals’  efficacy  expectations  about  their  writing  ability”  (p.  466).  I  will  inevitably  come   in  contact  with  students  who  struggle  with  self  efficacy,  but  it  was  really  nice  that  my  first   experience   tutoring   on   my   own   was   with   a   student   who   had   the   self-­‐confidence   to   recognize  his  mistakes  and  tackle  them  head  on.     The  final  tutoring  session  I  had  this  summer  was  much  harder  than  the  others.  The   student   came   in   with   a   film   review   that   she   had   written   about   Little   Miss   Sunshine   that   she   wanted   to   revise   and   resubmit   for   a   new   grade.   When   she   pulled   out   the   paper,   it   was   completely  covered  with  criticism  from  her  teacher,  and  though  she  had  started  on  some  

Kocher 5   revisions,  it  was  clear  that  she  wasn’t  entirely  sure  of  what  he  wanted  her  to  do.  As  I  looked   over   the   comments   he   had   made,   it   appeared   that   his   major   problem   was   the   way   that   she   had   tackled   the   genre   of   the   piece.   Hagemann   (2002)   addresses   the   importance   of   understanding   genre   in   “Teaching   Students   to   Read   Writing   Assignments   Critically,”   where   she   writes   that   “paying   attention   to   genre   helps   writers   determine   the   format   of   a   paper   and  the  details  that  are  a  necessary  part  of  it”  (p.  6).  I  tried  to  keep  this  in  mind  as  I  walked   through  the  paper  with  the  student,  asking  her  to  explain  why  she  included  certain  ideas   and   helping   her   clarify   her   argument.   In   addition   to   helping   her   address   some   of   her   teacher’s  problems,  I  also  made  a  serious  effort  to  point  out  things  in  her  paper  that  were   effective,   because   her   instructor   had   failed   to   say   anything   encouraging   in   his   notes.   I   repeatedly  told  her  that  she  was  on  the  right  track  and  that  her  ideas  were  strong,  and  that   with  some  changes  her  argument  would  become  more  clear  and  effective.  It  was  still  very   hard,  though,  because  she  seemed  to  just  want  me  to  tell  her  how  to  fix  the  paper  —  I  think   I  did  a  pretty  good  job  avoiding  it,  but  there  were  definitely  times  where  I  wanted  to  give  in   and  just  tell  her  what  she  should  do.  By  the  end  of  the  session  she  was  more  receptive  and  I   was   able   to   help   form   a   plan   of   attack,   but   I   was   still   worried   that   she   might   not   follow   through  due  to  her  lack  of  confidence  in  her  own  changes.      

These experiences  that  I  had  in  the  RWC  had  a  huge  impact  on  the  way  that  I  view  

tutoring, and  will  approach  it  in  the  fall.  In  “The  Idea  of  the  Writing  Center,”  North  (1984)   writes   that   “in   the   ‘new’   center   the   teaching   takes   places   as   much   as   possible   during   the   writing,  during  the  activity  being  learned,  and  tends  to  focus  on  the  activity  itself”  (p.  439)   and  this  is  something  I  kept  in  mind  as  I  was  tutoring.  Though  the  students  I  was  observing   and   tutoring   were   looking   for   help   with   what   they   viewed   as   a   final   draft,   I   constantly  

Kocher 6   reminded  myself  that  writing  is  a  process,  and  that  the  drafts  they  were  working  with  were   fluid.  Looking  back  on  the  ideas  of  this  earlier  piece,  North  (1994)  writes  in  “Revisiting  ‘The   Idea   of   the   Writing   Center’”   that   “[students]   will,   rather,   be   motivated   to   (say)   finish   writing   to   be   finished   with   writing;   to   have   their   writing   finished”   (p.   10).   This   desire   to   be   finished  came  up  in  every  session  that  I  participated  in,  and  I  can  completely  understand   that   motivation;   as   a   tutor,   however,   it   was   sometimes   a   struggle   to   have   students   step   back  for  a  moment  and  recognize  the  steps  that  needed  to  be  taken  for  them  to  be  finished.   This   is   going   to   be   one   of   my   major   goals   while   I   am   tutoring.   I   want   to   help   students   recognize   that   a   piece   of   writing   is   never   finished,   and   that   there   is   always   room   for   improvement.   At   the   same   time,   however,   I   also   want   students   to   be   aware   that   even   though  there  are  changes  that  must  be  made,  they’re  on  the  right  track.      

As a   tutor,   I   view   myself   as   a   writing   partner   of   sorts.   I   am   an   extra   set   of   eyes   to  

look for  mistakes,  making  sure  everything  is  going  smoothly  and  reads  clearly.  While  I  want   the   students   I   work   with   to   view   me   as   someone   who   is   experienced,   I   don’t   want   to   be   seen  as  an  expert  who  can  point  out  their  mistakes  and  tell  them  how  to  fix  their  papers.   Instead,   I   want   to   act   as   a   practice   audience,   and   a   stepping-­‐stone   towards   independent   writing.   Rather   than   providing   a   service,   I   want   to   provide   students   with   tools   so   that   as   they   gain   confidence   in   their   writing   and   editing   skills,   they   can   employ   the   techniques   I   showed  them  on  their  own.  Tutoring  really  isn’t  about  going  through  line-­‐by-­‐line  and  fixing   every   mistake   in   a   paper   as   I   used   to   believe;   rather,   it   is   about   helping   students   help   themselves.  A  huge  part  of  this  is  helping  them  recognize  the  control  that  they  have  over   their   writing.   The   students   I   worked   with   seemed   very   concerned   about   what   their   teachers  wanted,  and  while  this  is  certainly  an  important  thing  to  think  about,  I  think  they  

Kocher 7   were   sometimes   being   held   back   by   it.   As   a   tutor,   I   want   to   help   students   embrace   their   writing  as  their  own,  and  let  their  voices  come  through  while  maintaining  their  attention  to   audience  and  genre.  By  helping  them  see  the  papers  they  write  as  extensions  of  themselves   and  their  ideas  and  opinions,  I  think  their  confidence  will  increase,  and  with  it,  their  level  of   engagement  with  writing.                                        

Kocher 8   References   Hagemann,  J.  (2002).  Teaching  students  to  read  writing  assignments  critically.   The   Writing   Lab  Newsletter,  26(10),  5-­‐7.     Linville,   C.   (2004).   Editing   Line   by   Line.   In   S.   Bruce   and   B.   Rafoth   (Eds.),   ESL   Writers:   A   Guide   for   Writing   Center   Tutors   (pp.   84-­‐93).   Portsmouth,   New   Hampshire:   Boynton/Cook  Publishers  Inc.     McCarthy,  P.,  Meier,  S.,  and  Rinderer,  R.  (1985).  Self-­‐Efficacy  and  Writing:  A  Different  View   of  Self-­‐Evaluation.  College  Composition  and  Communication,  36(4),  465-­‐471.   Newkirk,  T.  (1989).  The  First  Five  Minutes:  Setting  the  Agenda  in  a  Writing  Conference.  In   C.   M.   Anson   (Ed.),   Writing   and   Response:   Theory,   Practice,   and   Research   (pp.   317-­‐ 331).  Urbana,  Illinois:  National  Council  of  Teachers  of  English.     North,  S.  M.  (1984).  The  Idea  of  a  Writing  Center.  College  English,  46(5),  433-­‐446.     North,  S.  M.  (1994).  Revisiting  “The  Idea  of  a  Writing  Center.”  The  Writing  Center  Journal,   15(1),  7-­‐19.   Severino,  C.  (2004).  Avoiding  Appropriation.  In  S.  Bruce  and  B.  Rafoth  (Eds.),  ESL  Writers:  A   Guide   for   Writing   Center   Tutors   (pp.   48-­‐59).   Portsmouth,   New   Hampshire:   Boynton/Cook  Publishers  Inc.    

Tutoring Reflection  
Tutoring Reflection