My experience in the writing center has been a learning experience and a mixture of trial and error. I have enjoyed working with a variety of students and subject matter. One session involved choosing a topic for analysis. This assignment came from a content that was unfamiliar and seemed quite intimidating at first, but I soon found myself excited to learn more!
When exploring unfamiliar content or genres, it is important to review the original assignment sheet of the professor. It is also helpful to ask questions of the student to gain understanding of what ideas he or she has already explored. In this particular session, we were brainstorming ideas for a topic for a film study analysis. This student was very informed about general topics related to the assignment, and working with her seemed more like a fun conversational Q&A. I felt like I came away from the session with a better understanding of the topic as well.
I have compiled a list of a few tips that hopefully be helpful when assisting students with unfamiliar content.
- Understand what you have to offer to students. What are your own strengths and weaknesses?
Everyone has a strength that he or she can offer to any tutoring session. When you understand what they are, you can apply them to any session.
- Do not be afraid to ask questions or to take a minute to look something up.
Remember no one knows everything about everything. There is nothing wrong with admitting to a student that you simply do not know the answer to a particular question. In situations like this, it is best just to say that you do not know and that you can search for the answer together.
- This may seem like common sense, but it’s extremely important and must be said. Pay attention to the student!
If you are constantly checking your phone or looking around the room or talking to someone else in the writing center, then it is likely your student will feel that he or she does not have your undivided attention. We live in a world where we are extremely busy and easily distracted by technology and the many tasks that must be checked off of our to do list every day. It is important to remember that during a tutoring session, we are there to serve the student and everything else will have to wait!
- Have fun!
The advantage of serving as a tutor in the writing center is that we get to meet new people every week. So have fun, and enjoy the experience of learning new things!
In relation to the tutoring session referred to earlier, I evaluated my own strengths and weaknesses. Even though I knew very little about the topic, I also knew that I could assist the student with topic selection through the right questioning. I knew that I could go through the brainstorming process with her and help her come to her own conclusion as to what type of analysis she wanted to write.
I was also not afraid to openly admit to her that I had not watched any of the movies she was referring to in class, and I was unfamiliar with the producer who was the focus of discussion. At this point, we took time to watch a movie trailer and she reviewed important plot structures for me so that I could understand enough about the films to assist her in connecting plot structures to important themes for analysis. It is also very important to be engaged in the tutoring session. I do this by giving a student my undivided attention, and even if it’s a topic that I’m unfamiliar with, I can still show enthusiasm and focus on the discussion enough to be of assistance.
Even though the session was slightly challenging, we both walked away from the session feeling good and having fun. Learning is a process for both tutor and tutee and being open minded enough to learn something new can always create an atmosphere of excitement.