A blog for tutors to share their ideas, experiences, and insights.

Author Archives: Andrew Kragie

I’m giving up on the one-photo-with-description format. I’ll just post photos from great moments with my friends from Brazil from here on out! Já cansei de postar uma foto e escrever muito sobre ela. Hoje vou postar várias fotos de grandes momentos com meus amigos no Brasil.

Here’s the first, with my “homestay sister from another mister” Yamira (right) and our friend Jazzy. As I said before: Yes, they’re both American, not Brazilian. And yes, they’re both friends, not models. But they could easily be both Brazilian and models! We had some unforgettable times together and I will always be grateful for their friendship. Esta é a primeira, com minha “irmã” Yamira e nossa amiga Jazzy. Como disse antes: Sim, elas são americanas, não brasileiras. E sim, são amigas, não modelos. Mas podem ser brasileiras e também modelos!

My favorite part of this multi-university blog has been the dialogue.  This dialogue takes place in the comments on posts and in the ways we respond to each others’ ideas.  Sometimes its imperceptible, but I believe most of us read a few of our peers’ entries before writing.  Through that process we pick up on some new ideas that we might build on in our own entries.  We also pick up on the tone for the blog, based on what others have written.  In that way the blog was a blank slate upon which we could create our own discussion space.

That dialogue has other imperceptible effects.  When we write, we write for an audience of peers rather than for a professor’s grade.  I believe this is reflected in the informal tone we often strike and the pop culture media we add.  We write much differently when we know that others will read and perhaps even think about our posts.

Although I enjoyed the dialogue of the blog, I didn’t find it terribly helpful for serious analysis or reflection.  It was more like a casual reminder to think about something related to writing tutoring.  I think the heightened interaction might come at the expense of deeper thinking.

The papers and pieces that we encounter are not our own.  They belong solely to the writers who come to us for our feedback and our guidance on how to strengthen their work.  Although it can be frustrating to take the backseat—even when we think it would sound so much better with a different verb or a particular structure—the nondirective and hands-off approach also relieves us of the need to support every opinion expressed in a paper.  Although we help with the papers, we can rest easy knowing that they do not become our papers and that the opinions expressed need not represent our opinions.

For example, I imagine a writer sharing with me a paper arguing for the irrelevance of religion in a modern, scientifically advanced society.  My Christian faith is a fundamental part of my identity and undergirds my purpose in life, and I feel joyful whenever I find people deeply engaged in their faith journeys (whether it be on a Christian or other path; I believe they all lead to the same mountaintop, if you know that metaphor).  However, I acknowledge that I can help a writer strengthen their anti-religion argument despite the fact that it is antithetical to one of my core beliefs.  Hopefully I would still help the writer reverse outline their argument, consider the organization of their argument, and point out any patterns of error.  Making an argument for the opposing side deepens your understanding of an issue, and might even sway your opinion or strengthen your prior convictions.  Ultimately we can take comfort in the fact that the name in the paper’s header is not ours; we help writers express their arguments, but their argument need not match up with ours.

Résumés are not the first thought that comes to mind when considering tutorship in writing.  But writing resumes (I’ll go a little wild and write “résumés” without the accents) demands a very particular style and vocabulary; more so than most writing tasks, you need someone to “show you the ropes” when writing a resume.  My cultural informant for this particular style was an RA down the hall who became a good friend.  She showed all the best attitudes of a writing tutor, whether working on a job application document or an analytic essay.  She did what Muriel Harris in “Talking in the Middle” calls “assisting with affective concerns”—addressing the stress and self-doubt that are often at the root of problems with writing.  In addition to discussing issues of verb choice, organization, and formatting, her “tutorial assistance [gave me] confidence about [myself] and [my] writing” and her “encouragement result[ed] in increased motivation to continue expending effort on a paper” (35).

My RA and friend set a good example for how to ease affective concerns while working with a writer on any type of assignment.  We can look to reassure writers that, yes, their points come across clearly and that, no, they do not sound stupid.  I think this cheerleader function can indeed increase the writer’s commitment to their work and inspire them to revise and edit with less stress and more interest.  This attitude of encouragement aids in our project of improving writers rather than merely polishing papers; we empower them to improve the paper at hand, and to write with more confidence and comfort in the future.

My name is Andrew Kragie and I’m a sophomore at Duke (probably) majoring in Public Policy with a certificate in Latin American Studies.  I wanted to become a writing tutor to pass on a lesson I learned from my freshman writing class: Writing is a process, not a product.  This means that our work can always be improved, and it also relieves some of the pressure we feel when starting an assignment because we know it doesn’t have to be perfect the first time around.  I’m also interested in honing my own writing and revision skills while helping others with their work.  Fun fact: This summer I met an 80-year-old couple in the NC mountains who cleared their own land, built a trout farm, and collected thousands of Indian arrowheads.  They were pretty amazing.