A common misconception concerning what a tutor (especially a writing tutor) does has evolved. Before analyzing what a writing tutor really is and what the writing center actually does, I was guilty of believing that if I went to a tutoring session, someone would edit my paper and give it back to me to correct. I think I developed this misconception because of my high school writing experiences.

I was in for a rude awakening when I started my first semester at Penn State Berks. My English instructor assigned a paper – we had to write a researched argument. When it was time to hand in the first draft I expect the same “high school cycle” to repeat. That is NOT what happened. My paper was filled with questions:

How does this apply?…Does this fit?….Why?…

I had NO idea what to do.  My instructor told me to “find the gap in the research” and build my paper off of a central argument.  This was not the typical five paragraph persuasive essay I was used to.  I went home and cried. There were NO comments that said:

Take out this sentence…This should be capitalized…

I had to “take control” of my own paper and I had  no clue where to start.

I didn’t go to the writing center because I had a premeditated idea of what would happen – the editing cycle. I knew that my instructor was not worried about technicalities, so I figured having my paper edited by a tutor wouldn’t help much. I made things a lot more complicated and tried to teach myself how to strengthen my paper.

I would love to see the writing center be noticed as a place students can go for help. Harris points out that students want to do their own work and students need tutorial interaction. I think this clearly defines what type of authority should be displayed in the writing center. As tutors, we are not “ultimate authority” and we should not give the impression that we are. In the end, the student needs to control the paper. They need to write it and edit it because it is their paper. Tutors should strive to help them learn strategies so they can write strong academic papers in the future.