So I Went to a Tutoring Session: Part One

I walked into Demille Hall on a Thursday afternoon full of fake confidence—of course I know where the Writing Center is, of course I have a paper ready for critique, and of course this will be a breeze! I did not, in fact, have any current piece of writing needing review, nor had I ever been to the Writing Center before, but that didn’t stop me from wandering around the dark, cramped labyrinth of Demille Hall—home of the Language department, Honors Society, and the Writing, Tutoring & Learning Center. These three departments jostle for space in a tiny one-story building crammed between Memorial Lawn and the beautiful, big Business building.

I found the Tutoring & Learning Center just fine, not only because there were signs with arrows on the walls pointing me in the right direction. The TLC receptionist couldn’t quite understand why I was so confused by her answer to what I thought was a legitimate question:

“So, um…I have an appointment with the writing center for 1 o’clock…?”

Her response:

“You know where the tutoring center is?” I nod. “It’s all the way in the back.”

Now, let me clarify: “tutoring center” refers to the windowless classroom around the corner crammed with cubicles. I’d already made a short circuit of said room. By “all the way in the back” I assumed I’d find a doorway to maybe a smaller classroom set aside for writing tutoring.

I assumed erroneously.

When my assigned tutor showed up, she led myself and the classmate who I’d paired up with for this experiential course assignment, literally, all the way to the back of the tutoring “center” to two cubicles in the corner that boasted a piece of computer paper taped to the shelf. It read:


Oh, I thought, so this is how it is.


Now that you have an idea of what kind of setup Chapman offers students looking for writing assistance, I’ll dive into my observations of a tutoring experience.


My fellow classmate brought in a personal non-fiction piece about his writing inspirations and individual creative process. (His version of my literacy narrative.) I was all ready to study the tutor’s technique critically, with our theoretical readings hovering in the back of my mind. She did all the right things:

1)       allow the student to talk first about what he thinks are issues with the paper, what he wants help on, what his goals were with the paper

2)      have him read the paper out loud

3)      ask questions, instead of diving in with edits or correction

4)      get the student to realize what changes were needed instead of spoon-feeding


Real A+ work, Tutor. It was clear that the tutee knew what needed to be done, but benefited greatly from the simple task of talking about his next steps with the tutor. That’s not to say that no assistance in the form of actual review was given by the tutor, but those corrections acted to reinforce realizations previously made by the student. It seemed like the perfect tutoring session experience–higher order concerns were addressed, the student incorporated the professor’s thoughtful notes into his rewrite, and left the session with a more focused, organized, and cohesive paper.

By the end of their session, I had mentally picked out a piece of writing for review–a five-page paper on gender communication and stereotypes in a pop culture–but I assumed my tutoring session would be much different. My professor was not of the writing department mentality. Her corrections on my assignment were purely mechanical, and I knew that if I wanted a perfect grade on the next assignment I would need to focus more on lower order concerns and format issues than anything else.

Again, I assumed incorrectly.


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