All through high school, I was very confident in my writing. So, when I began my first year of school at Albright College and we were able to pick what subject our First Year Seminar related to, I picked writing. It was a no-brainer. I was good at it, and I really enjoyed it. I thought the class was going to be cake. The class started out great; the professor seemed knowledgeable and made the material interesting. When our first assignment was due, I was confident in what I wrote.
I will never forget the day that I got my paper back with my grade. It was turned over so I would not immediately see what I got. I could however, see all of the red ink seeping through the back of the paper. I felt my heart drop to my stomach. I tried not to panic at first. I reassured myself that maybe it was just some constructive criticism, or maybe even compliments (ha!). I turned the first page over. Sentences were crossed out with a ton of red marks. There were arrows from words and sentences leading to the side of the paper where discouraging remarks filled up the margins. My heart sank even further as I kept reading. Was it really that bad? I turned the last page over to a see a huge red C- circled at the top of my paper with a little note scribbled underneath. “See me after class”.
She recommended I come by her office and go over my paper with her. She wanted to help me fix it. Our little tutoring session did not go well. The meeting was in her office and she instructed me to sit across from her. As I did, she took my paper and began crossing out even more things on my paper. She took out a separate piece of paper and began rewriting some of my sentences. When she finished, she said “There, now just add those in and fix up what I marked and you should get a better grade.” She had taken complete control. The paper was no longer mine. I felt upset, angry, and powerless. If I wanted a good grade, I had to do what she said. So I did.
As you’ve probably noticed, none of the ideas that Muriel Harris suggested were implemented in our tutoring session. My professor did not “sit next to the student, talk, model, or offer suggestions.”(Harris, 33) She just sat there quietly as she tore my work to pieces, and re-modeled it into her own. As I tutor, I will always keep this experience in mind. I never want to make a student feel the way I did that day. Instead of tearing their writing down because it may not align with how I write, I want to help them build confidence in their own writing, and guide them to make their own decisions about how to change their work .