One of my greatest joys as a tutor is knowing that each session is unique; no two tutoring sessions are the same even if you work with the same writer multiple times. This uniqueness also means that each session can present its own challenges and obstacles to overcome in order to have a productive meeting. With this in mind, I thought I’d share some of my common strategies for tutoring sessions. These are what I consider some of my “best practices.”
1) Inquire early on in the session what the writer’s goals are for the session or concerns about the paper. The Writing Studio tutoring form requires this information for good reason: it helps direct the entire session. It also helps you identify whether the writer is realistic in what he wants to accomplish and also if he even has a clear idea of what he wants to talk about during the session.
2) Ask the writer a lot of questions throughout the session and take notes (or at least be ready to take notes) as she responds. I’ll often ask questions at the global level to help a writer address any conceptual issues in the paper. For unclear passages, I’ll usually ask “What do you mean here?” Often, the person knows exactly what she is trying to convey but just didn’t do it effectively.
3) Sympathize! Sometimes when a person hangs his head low and states how miserable he is at writing introductions, closings, or whatever, I often chuckle and say “Join the club” or “Oh, that’s such a common struggle, we can definitely address that.” I find this approach can ease the tone of the session, especially if the writer came in feeling dejected. We all struggle at times, so I see it as important to sympathize and inform writers that revision should always be part of the writing process.
4) Give the writer something to continue the session on her own time. I frequently recommend handouts that I think might be useful to the writer’s particular needs and also inform her of other resources we have, such as workshops, Undergraduate Writing Partners, and Facebook tutoring opportunities.
I hope you find my best practices useful! What are some of yours?–HG