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

Author Archives: smh53

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this blog. My only other experience contributing to a blog was in my Writing 20 class, and that was pretty much just a public brainstorming session. I knew everyone on the site from class, so posting there was about the same as talking in class. This blog was a lot more novel for me because I had the chance to get a glimpse into the minds of all these students from around the country that I have never met. Everyone had a slightly different way of looking at things, but we are all tutors working out how exactly to tutor. I really appreciate the interconnectedness that brought. I felt like I had a purpose writing these posts knowing that we were forming a relationship with other students comprised entirely of these little exchanges. It’s like a modern day pen-pal program!

I also loved having the blog as a way to cut loose a little bit after working on literature reviews and research papers. I’m usually a pretty conversational writer, so this felt a lot more comfortable for me. It’s nice speaking in “my own voice”, and it’s been neat hearing the voices of all the different sorts of writers that these programs attract. This blog felt less drily academic and more like a conversational collaboration because we were all sharing a bit of ourselves with each other.

I’m really glad I’ve been able to do this blog and get to know you folks a little bit. I wish all of you the best of luck in the future and hope you have a happy holiday break! Image


How many of you guys have used a SmartBoard? It’s a pretty polarizing new technology. Some people see it as the first step toward the classroom of tomorrow. But many people I’ve spoken with see the SmartBoard more as a glitchy waste of money that looks like the late 90’s vomited on a touchscreen. Granted, only a couple people in the latter camp have actually used one before, but if derision of the SmartBoard is pretty common, it seems worth considering how a writer’s (unfair!) perception of it might affect its usefulness in a tutoring session.

The main point I’ve come up with during my research is that SmartBoards are useful because they combine the three main “modalities” of learning – visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Visual learners benefit from graphically representing ideas and viewing images. Auditory learners benefit from discussing outloud and seeing things in writing. Kinesthetic learners benefit from manipulating things physically or moving around. As I’m hoping you’ve noticed, these are all things you can do with a SmartBoard! By using a medium that appeals to all three learning styles, tutors don’t have to worry about guessing how a writer learns best and all sorts of learners can benefit from the variety SmartBoards allow.

SmartBoards can also be great tools for tutoring students who are creating multimedia projects. I just tutored a student who was part of a group making a Prezi, and I would have killed to have a big touchscreen to work on instead of trying to jump back and forth between his laptop and my pen and paper. It would be easy (scheduling aside) to get the whole group together to develop group writing skills and make notes on an actual image of the Prezi.

For my final deliverable I want to make a video or a brainshark examining the uses for the SmartBoard and’/or student perception of it. So that brings me to my question for you guys. Having heard my case, would you want to try using a SmartBoard in a tutoring session? As a tutor? How about as a writer? Why?

 Honestly, if my personal beliefs have a strong influence on how I react to a student’s paper, I’m not doing my job right. My aim is to help a student develop their own ideas, not insert my own into their writing. But we have to be critical of students’ papers, how they develop their arguments and support themselves against criticism, which can be difficult to do objectively if we are personally opposed to their overarching thesis. For the sake of remaining impartial, I think it’s best for us as tutors to, in essence, pretend to be someone else for a while if that situation pops up.

Say a writer walks into the studio with a paper about how music is a waste of time and keeps people from being productive members of society. Now, I’m a lifelong musician who puts most of his freetime into the arts. There are periods I spend more time playing music than I do sleeping, and it’s not because I’m lazy. I’d want to give this guy a piece of my mind. But that’s not gonna help him make his point, and my personal beef with him doesn’t devalue what he has to say. So I’m gonna set aside all the stuff that I want to say and put on my Tutor costume. The Tutor is more concerned with building the writer’s paper up than tearing it down. The Tutor may pay a bit of attention to how the writer’s paper holds up to potential criticism by encouraging the writer look for sections which could be easily argued against. But the main focus of The Tutor will be on the writer’s ideas and how he communicates them. As long as he makes a solid case for why music is trivial, it shouldn’t matter how strong a case there is for the value of creative expression. These are his ideas he’s articulating and it is not my place to dismiss them. 


 My big “cultural informant” moment was actually in high school. I’m a math major now, but back then I hated the subject. I could do computations and power through it, but it was never anything but an obstacle for me to overcome and move past. One of my friends changed that. This guy was on another level from everyone around him. He ended up getting two full rides to Duke (yeah, he won a second scholarship in a math competition) and turning them down to study at Stanford. But at the time, he was just that guy who was really, really good at math. We would talk in the back of history class, and one day he mentions this kid at a math competition who had “crazy awesome style”. It was news to me that there was more to these competitions than being right or wrong, but as my friend explained how this guy had written “the Free Bird of proofs”, I realized that there was a lot of creativity and communication that was going on behind all that math jargon.

We started talking about why he loves what he does, and he started explaining how he saw the world. He showed me things that were simultaneously completely mind-blowing and incredibly intuitive. And what really got me was that he didn’t need complex equations or greek letters or huge chalk boards. That’s just the stuffy language used to describe math. The real math is stuff so inherently true and self-demonstrating that it’s hard not to get it when you see it. He taught me how to speak the lingo soon enough, but he eased me into it with beautiful, enthusiastic explanations like this.
As tutors we may not be equipped to completely change the way someone looks at the world, but we are the perfect people to help new writers see the deeper, human component that underlies the deliberate precision of academic writing. Entering into the discourse of a field can be intimidating when you’ve never seen things framed that way before and don’t know where to begin. We, as fellow students, can often present things from a more relatable perspective. I, for one, was happy to discover that there was a reason people devoted their lives to studying mathematics. I’m sure many young undergrads have similar passions waiting to be unearthed.

Hey everyone! My name is Matt and I’m a sophomore at Duke. I did some informal tutoring in high school helping people prep for the SAT and whatnot, but this will be my first experience with tutoring in a college environment. I’m really excited! I’ve always enjoyed telling stories, but I only discovered my love for writing in the past couple of years (I’ve always identified as more of a math guy). I hope in this program I can help other students unearth their own passions about writing.