Hello everyone! My name is Gabriella and I’m a senior English Professional Writing major with minors in Advertising and Journalism. The point is, I love writing –have for my entire life –and for me it has become an honest passion. The fact I’m able to say and believe that is truly awesome. Many people don’t understand the joy I get out of writing a paper, but it’s one that has led me to become an Honors Program Writing Fellow for the first time this Fall semester. I can’t tell you how excited I am to begin the process, perhaps just because I want to share my passion with the ripe minds of freshmen. But don’t think writing has always naturally to me; even English majors need writing tutors.
For upperclassmen, you know what I’m talking about when I call myself a Writing Fellow. For freshmen: no, we don’t just call ourselves that for fun – the title actually comes with a job description, and a very important one at that. It is my job as a Writing Fellow to tutor students’ papers during the drafting process and before they are submitted to the professor. I, along with one other Writing Fellow, divide the students in the class in order to achieve this efficiently all semester long. In other words, I only get to tutor half the students. We do this for the Honors English and/or Honors Colloquia courses, both of which are taken freshman year. Some professors in these courses make it mandatory for students to meet with us, others simply encourage it. Either way, it is our goal to make students better writers in any way we can. It is the students’ and our joint responsibility to set up these 30-minute conferences when our schedules align.
This past spring semester I took ENGL316: Peer Tutoring/Advanced Composition, a course taught by the Raymond Peters and offered to me upon passing the application and interview process. If you don’t know Professor Peters, you should, and take at least one of his courses by the time you graduate. The ENGL316 course trained me to become the well-informed, fully-capable Writing Fellow I now am (at least we’ll see about that); I read more literature on tutoring practices and learned more about tutoring practices than I ever thought I could, or knew existed. As a class, we read students’ papers and the comments made on them by teachers with a wide variety of feedback. We exposed ourselves to the tutoring theories and practices appropriate for many different types of students, and even tutored each other’s papers. I won’t bore you with the details of what I learned specifically, though I will mention there is a difference between directing and facilitating, and being a grammar Nazi versus actually paying attention to the content and thesis development of the paper. There are good students and bad students, and there are different ways to tutor these students, even changing my body language (imagine) to keep them interested. These are the little things I’ve kept in mind and will draw upon when I hold my first conferences.
I am writing this not to brag about the wonderful shoes I’m able to fill, but rather to bring you along in my journey as I discover what it’s like to be a tutor and work with students who are similar in age and, likely, writing ability to me. I suspect I will face challenges with some students in not knowing the most effective ways to tutor their papers or even getting in touch with them for setting up conferences. I fear I’ll become too invested in a paper or tutor it in a manner that is more directive than facilitative, which is what I’ve been taught not to do. I even fear I may not be able to meet the expectations some of my tutees have of me. What will my role be, then? Will I fail completely as a writing tutor? But what if I really rock it, after all? By the end of the semester, both you and I will know the answer to these questions.
While my journey as a Writing Fellow has not yet begun, I am in the process of scheduling my conferences now. Less students have gotten back to the introductory email I sent out a few days ago than I thought would by now, although this isn’t as discouraging as it is normal and expected. I patiently await receiving my first papers, which will bring me one step closer to holding my first real conference of many as a Writing Fellow.
Check back frequently for more posts about my tutoring experience!