Lauren Mckenzie, Language Specialist Saint Mary’s University Writing Centre and Academic Communication Vol. 2, No. 2 (Fall 2020) Lauren Mckenzie lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia and works at the Writing Centre and Academic Communications at Saint Mary’s University. Lauren is currently completing her MA TESOL and research interests include critical and social justice pedagogy, rebellious […]Writing: It’s an outdoor vibe —
A Response to “Tutors’ Column: Will You Trust Me”
Mandy MacArthur, Senior Writing Tutor, Saint Mary’s University Writing Centre and Academic Communications
Wang, By Qian. (May/June 2017). Tutors’ Column: Will You Trust Me. WLN – A Journal of Writing Centre Scholarship, 41(9)-10, p. 26-29.
In her entry, Tutors’ Column: Will You Trust Me, published in WLN, Qian Wang (2017) honestly reveals her struggle with the anxiety and fear related to her tutoring adequacy, or rather, her self-projected inadequacy. Wang (2017) writes of her paralyzing ‘imposter syndrome’ and self-doubt as a Chinese ESL writing tutor at Virginia Tech University. Wang (2017) describes her experiences with the assumptions being made by both peers, the tutor and student, in terms of what constitutes the tutor’s role. Ultimately, Wang (2017) argues that through honesty with oneself and the student, a tutor can gain trust that contributes to a successful and dynamic relationship between the two that is reciprocal in nature.
As a writing tutor with English as my native and only language, it was hard to necessarily connect with Wang’s uncertainty in terms of English competency. However, I did strongly relate to the feelings of anxiousness and self-doubt. Wang (2017) writes, “I was worried that I would not be good enough at writing” (p. 26). This was an all too familiar memory I had of starting as a tutor at the Saint Mary’s University Writing Centre four years ago. I was afraid I would say the wrong thing or appear to be out of my element. I was nervous and apprehensive, and this contributed to a tense environment for guided learning.
Wang (2017) continued by describing the importance of developing a rapport with varying students depending on the individual and tone of the session. After a particularly trying session, where she found her paralyzing anxiety in an attempt to ‘have all the right answers’ was hindering the tutoring process, she made the decision to take this uncomfortable experience and use it as a form of constructive development. As tutors, it is okay to not know everything. She writes, “I started to explain that although I was his tutor, I was not teaching him, but learning with him” (p. 28). This realization helped to change the tone of the session and boost her confidence as well. Personally, what I find most relevant here is making the role of the tutor clear to both parties. Once we relieve ourselves of the responsibility of being experts, we can offer a valuable partnership of collaborative learning.
Wang (2017) concludes with the insight of how clarifying this role helps to establish a sense of connectedness and trust between the tutor and student. She realized, “this trust could only develop when I allowed myself to show my weakness” (p. 29). However, this ‘weakness’ does not equate uselessness, and this honesty earns trust. Wang (2017) adds that in order to be an effective tutor, we must remain open-minded and engaged, and continue to educate ourselves, stating, “being humble and truthful is the key to earning the client’s trust” (p. 29). Based on my experiences as a tutor, I share this perspective with Wang. Every individual, writing assignment, and session will be different. What should remain the same is our passion for and focus on the collective partnership of the tutoring process. We must recognize the value in embracing this uncertainty together and growing our knowledge in a mutually shared way. Understanding this dynamic is the characterization of effective tutoring and has ultimately helped me to find my confidence as an educator as well.
A response to “Educating and Recruiting Multilingual and Other Graduate Students for Writing Center Work”
Sheelagh Russell-Brown, Senior Tutor, Saint Mary’s Writing Centre and Academic Communications.
Lin, Hsing-Yin Cynthia and Katherine deLuca. “Educating and Recruiting Multilingual and Other Graduate Students for Writing Center Work.” WLN 42:1-2 (2017).
I came to this article with curiosity based on my experience over the past more than twenty years working with English language learners and my lifelong interest in linguistic issues. I must admit that my own attitude to the use of native language in English language teaching has been somewhat conflicted because of the rules under which I have worked. This article has helped to reinforce in me the need for reflection, particularly on the usefulness/limitations of “English only” policies such as those in place in the European international school and Canadian language school where I have taught.
The authors give an account of how the Writing Center at Ohio State University, recognizing the shift in demographics that has affected many North American universities towards a higher percentage of non-native English speaking students, made the move to recruit graduate students with other language abilities as well as the usual undergraduate tutors (or Writing Consultants as the OSU Writing Center calls them).
Some of the authors’ points caused me to recall moments in my own experience where knowledge of what they identify as “differences in writing process, language usage, and idea development” across cultures can be effective in addressing writing issues in English. They also present situations where languages other than English can be used in the tutoring sessions. I’ve found that sometimes just pointing out similarities and differences between an English word and a word in the student’s native language can inspire an interest in how the word can be used in speaking and in writing. It can also encourage the student to try to teach me some features of his or her language–a sharing of interests that can open up different approaches to brainstorming and writing.
Another significant issue raised in the article is one that I found myself referring to in teaching just this week when trying to convey to a class the importance of using specific instead of vague language. That is the fact that rather than there being a strict distinction between Lower Order Concerns, such as grammar and vocabulary, and Higher Order Concerns, such as content development and organization, they tend to “bleed” into each other. In other words, without the ability to husband vocabulary and grammar in another language, it is difficult not only to develop a thesis and supporting content effectively, but also to even begin to “think” that content. Although it is true that the ability to think in the new language without translating is a goal to which language learners aspire, I can see more and more, after reading this article, how valuable the permission to think in the native language is as a bridge to writing in English.
This is an article that I’m sure I will return as I see more of its applicability in my own work.
From WLN BLog… Humble Brag: How Seriously Should We Take National Student Survey Results? || McLean’s University Rankings Canada Linnet Humble is the Writing Centre Coordinator at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick. In April, a Maclean’s article shared by a colleague on Facebook caught my eye. This colleague noticed our university ranked first […]
via Blog Post || Humble Brag: How Seriously Should We Take National Student Survey Results? || McLean’s University Rankings Canada — Canadian Writing Centres Association / l’Association Canadienne Des Centres de Rédaction
Brian Hotson is editor-in-chief of the WLNBlog and Director of Academic Learning Services at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, NS. Each August, our centre holds a two-day Summer Writing Workshop. Its main purpose is to provide incoming, first-year students an opportunity to experience writing at a university level prior to September. It’s also a chance […]
The 17th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style is almost here, incorporating many changes and updates. We spoke with Carol Saller, editor of The Chicago Manual of Style Online Q&A and of the CMOS Shop Talk blog, about the new edition. WLN Blog: What is the progenitor of the CMOS changes? How did they […]
Andrea Rosso Efthymiou, guest contributor Devoted to fostering research and conference participation for peer writing tutors, the National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing (NCPTW) is gearing up for its 2017 conference at Hofstra University. In this post, NCPTW 2017 Chair, Andrea Rosso Efthymiou, interviews this year’s keynote speakers, Lauren Fitzgerald and Melissa Ianetta, co-authors of […]
Over the next few months, we will be posting on writing centre work in China. Contributing are 杨雪 Xue (Rachel ) Yang, Beijing Normal University, Zhuhai School of Design; 宋凌珊 Lingshan Song, Writing Center Assistant Director, Mississippi College; Jessie Cannady, Module Convenor Writing Centre, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University; Brian Hotson, Director, Academic Learning Services, Saint Mary’s University; and Julia Combs, Writing […]
The WLN’s (formerly the Writing Lab Newsletter) blog, “Connecting Writing Centers Across Borders,” is available at http://www.wlnjournal.org/blog/. The blog welcomes international readers and recent blog topics included: • the dress code conversation • an interview with Julie Christoph, the chair of the National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing • Les Perelman’s post about the […]