I had to observe a tutor in the university’s writing center tutor struggling writers a few times. This is a journal entry I made after one of those observations.
Journal – Week 6
Tutoring Peer Writers
This is my second observation. The tutor is Janine Ca——, the same tutor with whom I did my interview, and the student she is tutoring is another Asian ESL student. The student is on time and Janine is waiting. She had a session before this one and is seated at her table when the new student comes in. They know each other. Janine has been helping this student with this paper week after week. The paper is some type of social science essay. It is very long around sixty pages or so. The font size and boldness varies a lot but I assume this is all her work. I wonder what type of class she would have to write such a long paper for, probably this is for a graduate level course.
Janine’s demeanor is different than Tom’s. She is more reserved and does not read the paper aloud, like Tom did. Also the student is more comfortable, even joking that she has been observed so many times that she should start charging for it, and both she and Janine laughed.
Janine has guide books at her table, unlike Tom, but does not use them. The student is in fact an ESL student and I have trouble understanding her when she talks, just like Tom’s student. But Janine understands her fine. This student is not as reserved, and is much more confident and presents ideas and questions to Janine for discussion. This session is more give and take than the session with Tom. When I interviewed Janine I got the impression she would be more open this way. She does not tell the student but instead asks questions. She does correct grammatical errors and explains them as she does, but is more focused on the content of the paper.
Janine and the student sit real close, almost touching, with the paper in between them, and both with pencils in heir hands. Janine told me she likes to have the paper between her and the student because it creates an atmosphere more conducive to sharing and learning. Whereas Tom had the paper in front of him and only he had a pencil, so only he could make corrections and markings on the page. Although Janine corrects grammar mistakes, the student is concerned with transitions between sections of the paper.
Janine reads quietly and the student watches quietly. Janine always asks questions, just like she told me she does, and never commands the student to do this or do that, except when it comes to using the article “the.” The student leaves it out and Janine explains to her where and why it is needed. Of course there are also comma problems.
The familiarity between the two comes through as their body language is identical. Both leaning in towards one another, both resting their heads on their left hands. I believe this is good because it will help the student open up and tell Janine what she needs and Janine won’t be afraid to ask questions to get information. Janine does ask a lot of questions, again like she said she would, and they are directed towards getting towards the meaning.
I like Janine’s style. She wants to understand what the student needs to do and help her achieve her goals. This student has many English Grammar problems like the other ESL student did. Janine had said that grammar continues to be an issue even for the graduate students. Gerunds, prepostions. Janine explains when to use as, like and as with.
Comments on the content include the good, “very clear comparison,” to the not so good when she does not understand the relevance of a certain passage. This last comment is more like what I had come to expect out of writing center tutors from our readings. More content and style oriented comments than grammar stuff. But Janine’s comments are about half and half.
Janine and the student talk over issues to get them resolved, whereas Tom mostly told his student. Janine never once took her focus off of her student and did not address me directly until the end when I asked her a question. She also didn’t stop the session until her next student arrived. A very good session I believe. The entire paper was not covered but it was too long for that. And Janine had good ideas for the student to work on her own so it won’t be like the student will have to wait until the next time she sees Janine to make progress with her paper. And the familiarity between the two of them worked out well. The student and Janine talked equally as much and the student wasn’t afraid to make her ideas known. This session was like collaboration between two people with the same goals.
I believe when I need tutoring I will request Janine. She is concerned with things other than grammar, those I can mostly take care of myself during the editing process, what I generally need help with is the style and direction of my papers.
The strengths of this session were the familiarity between the student and the tutor and the focus of the tutor on the important issues surrounding the paper.
Weaknesses of the session could be the length of the paper not allowing for an in depth review of it entirely and also the focus on grammar due to the student being an ESL student.