Category: Gabriella Mangino

Round 2: Meaningful Conferences and Encouragement, By Gabriella Mangino

I couldn’t have asked for this second round of writing tutoring to go smoother! I was excited to collect my tutees’ drafts and email them about setting up conferences. This time, my conferences were divided across two weeks, which made it a little easier to fit into their schedule and mine. Most students decided to schedule their meetings with me the same day, time, and location as last round, so this was easy for me to remember.

I particularly enjoyed this round because I really got to know who my tutees were. It was wonderful to see their faces again and to talk about how their semester was going. In the beginning of all my conferences, we talked about what grade the student received on the last paper, and whether or not he or she was satisfied with this grade. Some of my tutees were disappointed, and others were just content. The first paper is always the most challenging, I told them, because there’s no way of knowing what Professor Hill exactly expects out of them. I told them that every professor has a particular expectation of each student with each paper, and by the second paper, he or she will have a designated “spot” in his or her mind for the student. “The sooner you’re able to speak with the professor –connect with him and be able to understand what he expects out of your writing –the sooner he’ll be able to characterize this spot and be able to connect with your writing.” This all may have sounded philosophical and meaningless to my tutees, but I truly believe in what I was telling them (for those who actually got what I was saying, thank you). I’ve always recognized the value in connecting with professors before it’s too late in the semester. It’s better for both parties, and especially your grade.

With this encouragement to open up the conferences, I found the remaining time to be especially useful and meaningful for both me and my tutees. I can confidently say I conducted my best conferences this round, and walked away feeling like I really helped my tutees toward becoming better writers, not just producing a better second paper. One student in particular had struggled with the last paper, and hadn’t received the grade she wanted. We delved deeply into this paper’s thesis, ripped it apart some, and closely examined the sources she was working with together. It seemed like all she needed was a fresh perspective to help her analyze what she already saw out of the sources, and a push to develop her ideas to their full extent. Another student wasn’t sure how to interpret the prompt, and ended up writing a paper that met almost none of the requirements. All he needed was some reassurance and reaffirmation of what the paper was asking, and together we worked to craft a thesis off of the ideas he already had written. It turned out a potential thesis was hidden within one of his jumbled paragraphs, and I know I helped him envision how it could apply to the works of photojournalism he still had to analyze. These in-depth interactions between my tutees and I made the half hour block of time seem like 5 minutes. Again, I encouraged my tutees to send me that second draft to look over one last time, and I did receive a few.

The most difficult aspect of this tutoring process so far occurred in this round, where I had to convince some students to stay positive about the professor and the class. Some students were developing a “bad taste in their mouth,” based off their previous paper’s grade and the length, detail, and somewhat obscure aspects of this new paper’s prompt (like the last one, they said). I knew it was my job to encourage them to stay positive through the rest of the semester and connect with the professor in every way possible. Whatever questions he or she has about the prompt and their writing shouldn’t go unasked, I told them, and they definitely shouldn’t label the class as “boring” or “annoying” going forward. They could, however, continue to label it challenging, and strive to overcome the challenges so there’s something to be proud of at the end of the semester. I loved taking challenging courses throughout my college career, I told them, because there is always something to be learned and appreciated at the end. I think my words were encouraging enough to my tutees that they left our conferences outwardly confident, and even happier.

I am saddened by the fact I only have one round of tutoring left. This will be for their lengthier research papers, the prompt for which I don’t have yet. I am excited to tutor this round, though, because it seems like these students are yearning for a little more room (word count) and freedom (a more loosely-interpreted prompt) in their writing. For this final paper, I will be sure to discuss to the prompt with Professor Hill directly to ensure I can help his students achieve all his expectations. I’ve heard mixed feedback about his written comments in terms of the language, concision, and depth of analysis he is looking for, and I want to make sure they nail this for their final, most weighted paper.

Check back for another post to round out my semester of tutoring!

Round 1 Reflections: Pushing the Thesis, by Gabriella Mangino

Boy, was this a busy week! I’m happy and feeling satisfied having completed my first round of tutoring papers for Jason Hill’s course “After Photojournalism?” This first paper (“dispatch”) called to evaluate the effectiveness of the photos in a particular photojournalistic essay in a 1950s LIFE Magazine (pretty interesting!). I truly felt like a UD professor working one-on-one with my tutees’ papers, helping them further develop their ideas and cite their sources correctly.

So, how am I as a tutor? So far, I’ve noticed I’m a huge fan of “pushing the thesis” just a little bit more. I encouraged almost every student to challenge their ideas and develop them to the full extent. I’m not as much as a grammar-freak as I thought I would be; I found myself paying closer attention to diction and sentence flow than punctuation. I like the openness and casual environment I’ve been able to establish with my tutees the most. I remember being so shy and awkward with my Writing Fellow freshman year, and I’m so glad to see my tutees are as outgoing as I’ve sworn myself to be in this situation. No awkward silences, and no uncomfortable introductory conversations.

This first round was a learning experience for me, of course, in how exactly to interpret the prompt and best guide my tutees toward fulfilling it. For example, Professor Hill requires his students cite Chicago style, and brilliant me had no idea what this meant. So accustomed to MLA, I was at a loss of how to tell my tutees how to cite that way. I directed them to use Purdue Owl (“Yes, it is spelled like the chicken,” I told them), which is an online resource that can tell you everything and anything about citing. I wanted to be absolutely sure they followed this specific requirement on the prompt, and that they used the best source possible, not me, to do so. There were specific “tasks” to complete on the prompt, like utilizing an outside source, editorial, and advertisement that supported the analysis and arguments about the photojournalistic essay. I made absolutely sure each student’s dispatch contained this. Some students particularly struggled with thesis formation –as most students, including myself, do –and then specifically citing evidence to push it. I suggested ways to do this and stressed its importance, and my tutees were very receptive to this. I always closed my conferences by telling my them to feel free to send me a second draft (“This is something I enjoy doing, don’t worry”).

Round one: complete. I was scared initially, but that feeling went away mid-way through my first conference. By the time it was over, my brain was smiling and saying “I can do this, I got this. I’m a writing tutor, and these guys are counting on me.” Well, I can’t wait until the next round already. I am looking forward to seeing my “little minions” write in their own voices and styles in the next paper!

Getting to Play Tutor for a Semester: My Journey as a First-Time Writing Fellow by Gabriella Mangino

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!

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