Now that my senior year has officially begun, I cannot help but reflect on all of the wonderful experiences with which SUNY Oswego has provided me. Perhaps the most amazing opportunity I have had in college thus far is working as a tutor in the Writing Center of Penfield Library. I first began tutoring as a sophomore during the fall of 2013, and I honestly could not be more pleased with my experience. Though I look forward to graduating more and more each day, I still feel a pang of sadness when I realize that the job I have fallen in love with will soon come to an end.
Since working as a writing tutor, I have acquired new knowledge and developed a variety of skills that will no doubt benefit me in the future. Both my listening and communication skills have improved substantially over the past few years due to my engagement with tutees. Since many students who come in for tutoring may feel nervous about visiting the Writing Center, it is important to make them feel comfortable and welcome. In order to do this, a tutor must frequently ask for his or her tutee's thoughts and opinions, which encourages effective communication between both parties. Thanks to my job, I am now capable of expressing myself to others in a much more clear and concise manner. I have also learned how to interact positively and effectively with students in order to best serve their interests. This is an especially important tool for me to have, since I work with students on an individual basis. Interaction between the tutor and the tutee is absolutely crucial for a successful session.
One of the many methods I have developed as a tutor, is viewing each student that visits the Writing Center not as "just another tutee," but as a unique individual with his or her own strengths and weaknesses. As soon as a new student comes in for tutoring, I introduce myself and then ask his or her name. Oftentimes, I will ask a tutee what his or her major is, where he or she is from and what year he or she is in. As the tutoring session progresses, I typically pose more detailed and open-ended questions. These may include: Why are you taking this course and how do you like it so far? To what extent are you interested in the course material? Are you understanding what is being taught in class? How do you feel about your writing skills, in general? What would you like to see improved? I try my best to get to know each student on a personal level, since I have found that my tutees tend to be more comfortable and communicative with me if they feel like we are on close terms with each other. Interacting with my tutees on a one-on-one basis establishes a stronger bond, as well as a higher level of trust and respect, which allows me to work with them more effectively.
Another important lesson I have learned through my experience as a tutor is that there are many different types of learners. Therefore, one of the many personal goals I set for myself at the beginning of my sophomore year was to discover what kind of learner each tutee is (i.e., visual, auditory, tactile kinesthetic, etc.) so that I can tailor my teaching style and strategies to accommodate the needs of each individual. For example, for learners that tend to be more visual, the most useful strategies may include highlighting, notecard-making, and using pictures/videos to help commit important information to memory. For students that are auditory learners, using acronyms, mnemonic devices, rhymes, and songs generally work best. Over the years, I have used various techniques in order to help my students better learn and understand the required material. Being adaptable to different learning styles and approaches has ultimately contributed to my success as a writing tutor.
Offering positive reinforcement during tutoring is another vital lesson I have learned from my job. Whenever I engage in a session, I try to be very careful about my choice of words to not discourage or offend my tutee in any way, especially since he or she may feel ashamed about coming to the Writing Center. Unfortunately, there is still a stigma attached to tutoring. Many students seem to be under the impression that if they ask for help, they will automatically be labeled as “dumb” or “inferior.” This is a common misconception; in fact, most of my tutees are exceptional students who are incredibly dedicated, conscientious, and eager to learn.
As a tutor, it is important for me to remember that there is a fine line between constructive criticism and destructive criticism. I am aware that I should not simply critique papers, since this might make students feel incompetent or inadequate. Rather, I should make a conscious effort to find positive things to say about students’ papers even if it is something as simple as word choice. One essential lesson I have learned is that there is always room for praise and encouragement. No matter how poorly-written or constructed an essay may be, a tutor can still find something nice to say about it. Not only does this reassure the student that he or she is headed in the right direction, but it also boosts his or her self-esteem. By working to promote positive reinforcement and inspire confidence within my tutees, I am able to have more effective tutoring sessions with students.
Overall, I feel incredibly fortunate to have been hired as a writing tutor at SUNY Oswego. My job has provided me with a tremendous sense of self-satisfaction. The main reason why I enjoy being a tutor is because I absolutely love having the ability to provide helpful feedback on peers’ papers and to assist them with focusing, developing, and organizing their writing. Over the past few years, working as a tutor in the Writing Center, I have received such compliments as, “I received a good grade on my paper because of you!” and “I feel so much better about this assignment, thanks to your help!” Phrases like this not only make my day, but they also make my job worthwhile.
As an English major who understands and appreciates the power of the written word, I take great pride and pleasure in working with fellow students to help them enhance their writing skills. Having the opportunity to witness my tutees’ gradual development into critical thinkers and successful learners is extremely rewarding. My position as a writing tutor has not only taught me important lessons in leadership and communication, but it has also prepared me for a successful writing career in the future. I am confident that through my job at SUNY Oswego, I have gained invaluable skills and training experience that will no doubt allow me to utilize my writing skills to the fullest potential and encourage others to do the same.