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writing tutor: jeffrey dix



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writing tutor: jeffrey dix


Dear Future Writing Tutor,

Congratulations on your appointment with Learning Support Services! I have worked here for a year in many different positions: Anthropology writing tutoring, STARS WRITE mentoring, writing across the disciplines, writing 2 and 21, and drop-in tutoring. This letter applies to anyone in one of those positions.

Many skills that are beneficial in every day interactions are very important towards success as a writing tutor. One of these is to be able to find the correct balance between speaking colloquially and being professional and respectful. I have found that I am more successful with a student if I use normal speech that I might use with a friend or classmate. You can do this by avoiding grammatical jargon (or at least explaining these phrases in common vernacular), avoiding stiffness or harsh words and judgment, and talking plainly and kindly. This allows the student to open up more about weaknesses in their writing and to not be embarrassed by those weaknesses or mistakes we might address. But this does not mean that the tutor/tutee relationship is not an academic one. We need to balance our everyday speech with our professional behavior. I have found that if the sessions become too lax or friendly then the student might expect me to do more than my duties entail. This might mean expecting me to merely correct mistakes in a paper instead of helping the student learn why they are wrong and fixing those problems themselves. A too lax relationship might also mean punctuality goes out the window and time can be wasted. The balance between a friendly relationship and a professional one is not the same for every student. Some students require strict tutoring sessions and others will benefit more from a friendly relationship. As you gain experience as a tutor you will be able to determine which students require what kind of relationship.

A difficulty you will encounter as a writing tutor have been mentioned above. This is that often students do not understand what our role entails and expect us to basically write their paper for them. This happens in a few different ways. The first is when a student comes with a paper with numerous grammar and spelling mistakes and expects us to correct those problems without explanations or questions about their understanding. Our role is to make better writers not create better papers. To solve this problem we can correct the first mistake and explain the reason to the student. When we come to the second mistake we should ask them if they know why it is incorrect and how they can fix it. This will help the student succeed as a writer in further classes and assignments and not merely receive a passing grade on one paper. Another way that this problem materializes is when a student comes to a session in hope of planning or outlining a paper but brings nothing. If a student does not have the prompt, the notes, or the readings require for the paper there is not much we can do. This problem is only immediately alleviated if those resources (prompt/readings/notes) can be found online. The best way to deal with this problem is to inform the student that the next time they need help planning a paper they need to come prepared. This will help the student not only to be prepared but to perhaps take better notes in class and while doing their readings. The last way this issue comes up is when a student has a problem filling up the required page or word count for a paper. The problem is when the student does not respond to probing questions and expects the ideas to come directly from us. Usually we have not done the reading for the paper and have not taken the course the paper is assigned for. To solve this problem we can open up the student's class notes or readings and initiate a conversation on the subject matter. Often the student knows more about what they are trying to write about than they believe they do. A conversation will trigger ideas for both the tutee and the tutor but more importantly the tutee will be doing the work. These are problems that I would definitely have loved to know about before so I hope this is of some help. There are of course more difficulties that will arise during your tutoring experience but all of these will become less of a problem over time.

The tutoring experience is beneficial for the students utilizing the resource but can also have an invaluable impact for the tutor. By catching mistakes on other student's papers or seeing what types of organization is awkward you will find these problems appear less in your own papers. As the experience increases your own writing skills it will retroactively increase your effectiveness as a tutor. The job also helps to increase your ability to work with others in an effective way. This is useful in group projects, future research, and in other employment. The tutoring sessions are about the tutee but will affect you in many positive ways.

Overall the tutoring experience is a very fulfilling one. As you learn to better assist students they will be extremely appreciative and you will receive a self-confidence boost from realizing how much you can really help someone else. Again, congratulations on your appointment. You are going to love it.

Jeffery Dix




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