Listen to Other Tutors: The Importance of Sharing Tutoring Experiences

When I entered the writing center at Marshall University as a tutor for the first time, I was a nervous wreck. The previous night I was notified via email that a student signed up for my time slot and he wanted help with his rhetorical analysis. The last time I wrote or saw a rhetorical analysis was when I was a freshman. So it had been a while. I looked up some information on the rhetorical analysis online and while I felt better about the coming day, I was still not confident in my ability to help with the rhetorical analysis.

The next day I entered the writing center still feeling like I was going to let the student, and myself, down. There were two other grad students working that day and we talked about what assignments we were expecting to tutor. I mentioned the rhetorical analysis and my nervousness for tutoring such a task, and luckily, they had already had a couple students who needed help with rhetorical analyses. They shared with me how they helped their tutees; how they taught their tutees to focus more on content and organization (since those issues were more prevalent within the students’ papers), how they recommended the students to change the tone of their essays to fit a more analytical approach. They then reflected on what they could have done better for the students, such as getting the tutee to read aloud a paragraph of their paper to better check for grammatical mistakes. After the conversation, my tutee arrived and we started working. In addition to making sure the student’s paper fit the rubric, along with making sure the analytical tone of his paper was effective, I applied what I just heard from my peers to the tutoring appointment, and I believe the session was successful. It seemed like the student was understanding more about the nuances of the daunting rhetorical analysis than before and he made an effort to continue to write a better paper.

After the session, I reflected on how I helped that student. I realized that, thanks to the two who shared with me what they could have done more, I used that information to my advantage. This led me to the conclusion that more experienced tutors who share their mistakes can be as, or even more, beneficial than sharing their successes. Not only does the inexperienced tutor become more comfortable tutoring, but they also achieve better results. We, as inexperienced tutors, learn not to make the same mistakes as someone before that can easily be avoided if we have the knowledge for them.

This sharing of information can be used in various other ways, such as your own writing. This may seem like an obvious assertion, but I have read and heard from fellow tutors that they narrowly focus on tutoring without applying that experience for their personal use. And the more I reflect on that, the more confused I become. I believe each tutoring session is not only a learning experience for the tutee, but also for the tutor. And the feedback provided by fellow tutors adds onto that learning experience from the tutoring appointment. How someone consciously or subconsciously makes that separation I will never understand. Why not take advantage of the many sources of information willingly provided for you, and use it to better your writing? I understand, thankfully, most tutors don’t do this, but I feel like it should be mentioned.

The best example I can give for using the knowledge from a tutoring session to one’s own writing is this blog post. The idea for this post wasn’t solely mine. Like usual, I overthought what I should write about for this post. I knew I wanted to write something about the tutors themselves and not about an aspect of tutoring, knowing the other tutors in my class would cover those bases (and they did a great job of it, if I’m allowed to say). I mentioned this to a couple tutors and one suggested that instead of writing about what tutors should do on their down time (which was my initial idea) I should write about the importance of learning and sharing their experiences tutoring with fellow tutors. So then I started writing this.

  • Justin Kinney
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