Tutoring is what you make of it. Helping students can make a difference in their lives more than you may think.
Photo by Justin Crain
While working in the Writing Lab at Missouri Baptist University for over a year, I have encountered a number of athletes who thought they just could not do it.
They thought that an assignment was just another paper they would rush through, get a passing grade, and then be back on the court or field a few hours later.
There are many students venturing into the MBU Writing Lab simply struggling with putting their immense thoughts together to form paragraphs.
They are frightened to come into the lab, afraid the tutors will judge their writing.
On just another day at MBU, a freshman volleyball player appeared to be no different. I could see that she wanted help with her writing.
It was not until one day she saw me walking around campus that she timidly asked me, “I saw you in the ASC. Can you maybe help me with my paper?”
I could immediately envision the anxiety in her eyes and hear the nervous inflection in her soft voice.
This suddenly got my attention. In just those split seconds I thought back to years before, to myself as a freshman with the same exact distress.
I did not have the dark eyes or the soft voice, but I was in the same shoes two short years before.
I turned to the freshman in the middle of campus and said, “Sure, come on by any time. We can take a look and I’m sure you are doing a great job already.”
The next morning as I ventured into the Academic Success Center at 8 a.m., she was tensely waiting at the table with the English composition paper in front of her.
I plopped down beside her, still trying to wake up, and cast my sleepy eyes upon the graceful words on paper.
Immediately, after skimming the introduction, I noticed that her writing style was distinctive and exceptional.
Her thoughts flowed, with an attention-grabbing sentence to capture the reader from the start, along with a thesis statement that described exactly what the essay was about at the end of the introduction.
We worked through a few blemishes and she was hooked.
Mercedes Jones (pictured above), sophomore pre-med major, was inspired to write and became one of the elite students in her English Composition class.
She breezed through English Comp, a class that most underclassmen dread, with ease as her thoughts flowed into the remainder of the papers with shear fluidity.
This experience with Jones made me extremely joyful as I reflected back to my freshman year, when I was petrified to go in the lab and ask a tutor to read my paper.
Working with other students this year, I realize how visiting the lab my first year in college would have benefited me greatly. I never did go into the lab for help, but once I developed confidence in my writing and I knew I could help nervous and anxious students like myself, I had to become a writing tutor.
I eventually switched my major to journalism my freshman year and became a tutor two years later in the same Writing Lab I was afraid to enter.
A simple smile and warm response to someone nervously sitting beside you waiting for their session will go a very long way. It is the simple reactions in life that are often forgotten.
The moral of the story is if you think someone may be struggling, or you think you are a poor writer, there are countless positives that a tutor or mentor can find to develop and enhance your own personal writing style.
No two people will be alike in their style of writing, and some may just take longer to find their respective styles than others.
Writing is a process. It does not just come to you in a day. Be patient, write or type until your hands hurt, and do not be afraid of the unknown.
Everyone has a personal writing style that longs to be known, so as a tutor, I work to help students find that longing to write, to be read, to make a difference.