My opinion doesn’t matter. To me, tutoring is not about bringing my personal opinions to the table, it’s about getting the writer to express theirs. The only time I bring my “own opinion” into the tutoring session is when I suggest multiple pathways a writer could take their paper to help make it stronger or to solidify what they have already written. This does not mean I have not had instances where I disagreed with information in a paper.

Just recently, I had a student come in with a persuasive paper about being pro-gun ownership, which I am also, but to help him I played Devil’s Advocate and when he asked I told him I was pro-gun control. That seemed to baffle him and he asked me why I was on that side of the fence. I had had this debate before many times in my schooling career, I knew the facts of both sides and I used it against him. After we read his paper out loud we went through and began to look at the minute details that supported his argument. One of his supporting arguments was that “gun ownership is guaranteed by the second amendment to the Constitution”. It was a solid argument, but what he had on the paper was doing little to support that. To help him solidify what he wanted to say I turned his paper upside down and asked him to explain to me why the second amendment should be upheld while guns were being used to commit so many violent domestic acts. When he talked me through his opinion, it was very clear what his argument was and that he really did know how to support it. When I showed him his paper and explained that that wasn’t what was written, he seemed surprised, then amazed. We spent the rest of the session with me challenging his facts that he had down on the paper and with him taking notes on how he defended himself to me.

That being said, I don’t believe that a difference in opinion is necessarily a bad thing when it comes to tutoring a student, even if it does go against your core values (or pretending it’s going against your core values). Playing Devil’s Advocate for the student helps them to realize that they really do need to have a solid argument to get their point across. It’s one thing to be told “defend yourself” in your class and another to be told by someone sitting in front of you that they don’t believe what you have said. I think that, especially with persuasive essays, challenging the writer’s beliefs helps them to build a stronger paper and have a solid defense for their side of the argument.