From Tutor to Teacher: A Reflection

I have been tutoring at the CWS for three years. When I first started, I was so nervous, I wouldn’t give an honest critique of anyone’s work. I had tutored papers before, for friends at school and family members. But a total stranger was a whole new ballgame, and I spent a while adjusting, as most new tutors do.

As a first year, I was constantly missing and late to my CWS appointments, so I was confused when I was actually allowed to become a tutor. It’s become the only thing on campus that I don’t hate, if I’m being brutally honest. I have a little work family there, I’ve made most of my friends there, and whenever I’m there, I feel like I’m in a safe place, somewhere I belong. It’s one of the only things I’ve been able to rely on in all these turbulent years at Agnes.

Having that teaching experience has been really formative as well. Working with students towards a common goal– producing a good product, delivering a good speech or giving a good presentation– has helped me develop good teamwork skills, and lead in a really concrete way. My experience at the CWS informed my decision to become a teacher. 

But not only that; my time at the CWS has helped me put my studies in context. It’s sort of taken me by the hand and said, Look, this is what you can do with everything you’re learning! 

All that stuff in my Creative Writing major about reaching an audience really comes in handy when I’m trying to get a shy first year to open up about their first college essay. My research and citation skills I’ve learned in my history major have helped me teach students how to stand on their own two feet in an essay.

And lame as it sounds, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how the CWS experience helps me fulfill the leadership and global aspects of Summit. (Here, every Agnes student that isn’t a junior will roll their eyes and every Agnes trustee will tremble with anticipation). I’m the co-chair of the events committee at the CWS, which puts me in a leadership position whenever we have to plan an event. Plus, and not to brag, but a lot of students attribute a god-like status to CWS tutors, and we wield our power benevolently as leaders on campus. Got a research question and the librarians are busy? CWS tutors are available. Got a paper or a presentation due in thirty minutes that you forgot about? CWS tutors will calm you down and craft your desperate plea to your professor. So we’re pretty much running this school.

In terms of a global experience, I definitely interact with a lot of students from different backgrounds pretty much every day. Not just different educational or socioeconomic backgrounds, but different ethnicities and nationalities as well. Navigating the political minefield of questions that crop up during tutoring sessions has definitely broadened my perspective, and gave me insight into the minds of non-Americans, long before I studied abroad. Plus, being a global leader means you can talk to anyone, and as a CWS tutor, you’re literally paid to do just that.

Did you think I’d forget to mention how this experience fulfills the Summit learning outcomes? Think again!

I fulfill SLO 4, “communicate effectively through writing and speaking, especially across cultural or linguistic differences,” literally every day I am at work. Whether it’s an international student or a native English speaker, together, the tutee and I work to improve their writing and speaking by communicating effectively with each other about what needs to be done. It’s a nice relationship, really, a lovely setup.

I fulfill SLO 9, “practice or interpret creative expression or probe fundamental questions of value and meaning,” whenever I read what the tutee brings in. I like to ask a lot of creative, probing questions about their choices. Why that word? What is this sentence doing for you? How do you want to express this idea a little better? All I do, every day, is interpret their expression and ask about their meaning. It’s the best.

Finally, I fulfill SLO 11, “analyze human behavior or social relations,” as well. This one is a little less direct, but to have a good session, a tutor has to be attuned to the behavior of the tutee. Are they fidgeting? Put them at ease. Are they being reticent and reserved? Try backing off and letting them come to you. How do they interact with the center, and the other tutors? Do they stand at the door, afraid to intrude? Invite them in! Do they run around screaming for masking tape or a post-it note or some inane object? Tell them to stop that. These little nuances make or break a session. It’s vital for tutors to identify and analyze these behaviors, and adjust their techniques accordingly.

So I’d say overall, this experience has satisfied the Summit gods that be.

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