Personality Helps

Deborah Boyett, Class of 2014. PWR195.

After Reading Shanti Bruce’s “Listening To and Learning from ESL Writers,” I have realized just how nuanced each and every tutoring session can be. Everyone comes with their own concerns and expectations, so that attempting to cater to every student can be daunting. Bruce opened by eyes to the many cultural beliefs that come into play when a student is determining whether or not to attend the writing center. Some ESL students expressed a desire for a tutor who was older and more experienced. They did not want to be tutored by a peer, and viewed this situation as “embarrassing.” Others wanted to avoid at all costs the label of “weak” or “unskilled.” Unlike Bruce, I would argue that these are not cultural differences, as I know that I am struggled with asking for help, and that I often want the reassurance of an older person assisting me. However, these are writing center misconceptions that need to be addressed. The Hume Writing Center at Stanford does a good job of emphasizing that everyone should come to the writing center, from graduate students to incoming freshman. Our writing center is there to facilitate a discussion of ideas.

Bruce’s article also included tips that ESL students found helpful in their tutoring sessions. One student really liked when her paper was read out loud, so that she could hear the grammatical mistakes, and understand how a different pair of eyes looked at her paper. Another enjoyed how the tutor and the student sat next to each other and “did it together,” fostering a sense of community and bonding. This is in contrast to another student who wanted more of a top-down,  master and pupil approach. This point really emphasizes that each student needs an approach that is tailored to their own needs and desires.

Finally, I was struck by how the tutees were affected by the attitude of the tutor. Not only is this something that I can personally control and improve upon, but I want all of my tutees to feel comfortable and at ease with me. I hope that those who come to me for help do not feel intimidated or strong-armed into taking my suggestions! Smiles and a relaxed demeanor will be my focus from now on. I will also encourage the student to write down their own ideas and take detailed notes, so that they can remember the content of the session long after it is finished.

Bruce’s article was a detailed and helpful guide to a tricky situation, and I plan to reference it more in the coming weeks, as I embark on my own tutoring experiences!

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