This is why we observe

My time in English 251 can sometimes seem to be a journey without the promise of the greatest reward. I will not have all the time I want to put my knowledge into practice; I will be graduating in the spring before I have my time in the writing center. While I am upset that I will not be able to put my knowledge to good use at Bellarmine, I do have the potential to learn from this experience and take my knowledge into a classroom of my very own. The theory of tutoring and consultation is important to achieve this goal, but watching and practicing has always been very helpful for me. Because of this, it is important that I make the most out of every observation I have. For my first observation at the writing center, I learned a few things that I will certainly carry with me. Let me share some of these things with you.

I learned…

How to properly greet and connect to someone entering a new environment

From moment one, it was obvious that the tutor I was observing was genuinely happy to greet her writer and wanted desperately to connect with her. She immediately introduced herself and allowed the writer to do the same. The tutor asked the writer how her day was going and where she had been. When the writer replied, the tutor connected to the writer by comparing the life of someone close to her to the writer’s experiences. These first impressions can make or break a connection that we wish to create between consultant and writer. The connections this tutor made are the same ones that I hope to build in my classroom because they make the writing experience seem less intimidating. It gives the writer a chance to take a breath and realize that someone is on their side. Everyone deserves to feel the way this specific writer felt when seeking help in their writing process.

What should happen when I don’t have all the answers

The writer came with a challenge for the tutor, and the tutor openly acknowledged that she did not have all the answers. The writer was composing a resume and a cover letter. The tutor acknowledge that she did not have a lot of experience with these types of writing, but made sure the writer knew where to get the help she needed. She then took on the challenge by making the writer understand that they were in it together, and they would work to accomplish something as a team. This tutor did not back down because she didn’t have all the answers, but gracefully admitted that she was lacking, and together they made up for that. There will be many occasions when I don’t have all the answers my students need, but I hope to follow in this tutor’s footsteps by working with my students to overcome any shortcomings I may have.

How to be truly supportive of a writer who is trying something new

“This looks pretty good to me!” This phrase can say a lot in such a short amount of time. The writer came to the tutor with doubts about what she had produced. She seemed to fear the important task that was placed before her and looked to her tutor for guidance. The tutor acknowledged the writer’s worries and gave her the hope she needed to carry on in her task. She explained what the strengths of her resume were before carrying on to address what still needed to be done. The writer was obviously looking for this confirmation from someone, and left the session with the confidence she needed to complete the task. I hope to instill this confidence into my students each day as they face obstacles that they feel they cannot meet.

Why it is so important to ask “what can I do for you?”

Because of the situation the tutor was placed in, she was very limited in the guidance she could offer. Instead of trying to give knowledge she didn’t possess, she simply asked the writer what she could do to help. This question was the guiding force behind a session which would not have been as successful if it were not for the thoughtfulness of the tutor. The writer said she was looking for two things: a confirmation that her resume was clear and concise, and ideas that could guide her in the composition of her cover letter. The tutor took these two requests and responded to them in the best way possible. She addressed the direct wishes of the struggling writer, and I hope I can do the same thing for my students.

These are the things I will carry with me, and this is why we observe!

Emily Reid