When I did my first post here on TutorMusings2, I was rather uncomfortable. I was in no way a stranger to blogging, but writing for a group of people I knew were in a similar situation to me was awkward. Now that we’re here at the end of the blogging though, I still don’t feel comfortable doing it just because I haven’t met most of you face-to-face. I feel like Internet connections only truly work and are efficient after you’ve met in person. If I had known everybody in the blog I might have been more inclined to share more personal details than I had previously divulged. I would be less hesitant to just skim on the surface and I would have delved deeper into the nitty gritty of tutoring. My biggest challenge with blogging actually became remembering to read everybody’s posts weekly. It wasn’t that they were bad or boring in any sense, but I always felt like blogging should be done where, if you’re going to follow a blog, you do it where you read it when you have time, not as a demand. Having a blog to read weekly presented itself as a really strong challenge, but I eventually caught on to it and I’m glad that I did. I enjoyed listening to all of your experiences and hope at least some of you will continue with this as the journey continues for all of us.
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.
I would have to say that my cultural informant was my one English teacher (for the purpose of this post, we’ll call him Professor Smith). Smith was the teacher that never really taught what most people would call a traditional English professor. Instead of being worried about Greek rhetoricians and classic literature that one would most likely study in high school, he was concerned with teaching the complexities of the off-track English genres, like Watchmen and Flowers for Algernon.
After taking basic English that was required of all freshman (which I breezed through), when I got to his class and got my first paper back with a giant “D” written at the top, I was distraught. I went to his office to ask him why, when I had done so well in English introduction, I got such a bad grade on this paper? He replied that the central idea of the paper was optimal, I chose a good topic to work with, but I was not quite understanding how to organize the paper and develop my thoughts completely. We spent an hour going through just the introduction to my paper and I was floored by what I had learned in just that hour. I realized that my main problem was from the get-go. I knew where I wanted the paper to go, but the introduction (which I had based the content of my paper off of) was a jumbled mess, and the paper had followed suit.
I really do think that one of my goals as a tutor is to use the experience that Smith had taught me about not being afraid to relearn how to do something. I think that one of the biggest challenges that novice writers have is taking something that they have been taught and learning how to morph it to suit each individual situation. If I can convince just one person this semester that they have a solid idea and teach them a new creative way, that makes sense, to bring that point across, I will feel really accomplished this semester. I feel as if teaching people to write so their papers feel like theirs and not a machines will be the most important thing that will come of this.
Hello, everybody. My name is Britt Specht and I am a senior at Penn State Berks (set to graduate in May). I am majoring in Professional Writing and have hopes that I will one day be an editor or a novelist. Tutoring is going to be the ultimate link between my love of writing and words and the joy I get from helping other people. All of my schooling career, I have acted as my friends’ editor so the logical conclusion was to do it here at Penn State to give something back to the school that helped me learn a lot. I can’t wait to read what everyone has to say and use it to better my own skills!