Backstreet Boys are Back! (Sorry, it’s only me.)

Hello, dear reader, and welcome back to the Warrantless, a blog detailing my experiences in Humanities Core Course. We both thought I, with my terrible humor and photoshop expertise, was gone forever, but it turns out I’ll be sticking around for at least another quarter as a Peer Tutor! WOW!!

Yes, we’re both wondering how I’m even slightly qualified for anything.

Being a peer tutor is strange– I’m definitely a student, but there’s this awkward authority that other students expect from me that I don’t have. I don’t know the material any better than they do, especially since I am also reading a majority of the material for the first time as well. I very likely don’t know their seminar leader or what that leader expects from them. I can’t guarantee a grade for anything. I’m not even that much better a writer, in terms of having a technical or mechanical understanding of good writing, than some of these brilliant, brilliant kids. (There’s also the weird fact that I keep my favorite Great Nudes mug in the staff lounge, which is really cool but also is this the person that I have become?? A mug in the staff room is like career marriage!?) However, I guess I am a smidge more familiar with terms and literary skills and critical analysis than students only because I’ve taken this course before, and presumably that’s why I’m here.

Despite that, the real truth of the matter is that I really don’t know what I am doing. Case in point: Student A, my first ever tutee.

Student A needed a lot of help with her essay. This is not to say it was bad– it had good points. However, she didn’t have a firm grasp of what close reading was, nor did she fully understand what the heck a warrant was. She could identify that the Aeneid made her feel a certain way or imagine a specific scene really well, but she provided superficial, contextual reasons why it had these effects as opposed to pointing out the parts of the text that created this effect. I completely understand– it’s hard. It really is. Writing, especially in literary analysis, is a language on its own. You almost have to read it like a forensic expert would a crime scene: they need a blacklight, readers need a list of criteria to filter a text through. Yet, it’s also a matter of learning. A student might be able to tell you what tone, metaphor, symbolism, imagery, etc. are, but that does not mean they can actually recognize when it’s used or why.

And so, in my first tutoring session ever, I basically gave a lecture about figurative language and how/why the thesis-claim-evidence-warrant system works.

I cry.

I am and was not qualified for this, but that’s what the student wanted. I was also too #wimp #weak #trash to tell her that I was not the best resource for this kind of information. She claimed it helped, but I know (now) that this was probably not the best direction to take this session. I believe it was Stephen North that wrote that a writing center is not a grammar workshop or a classroom, and I basically did that. Instead, I  should have just close read the text with her and dropped terms as she described them.

But, hey, it happened, and I can’t change that. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

(If you only clicked this because of the Backstreet Boys reference, just so you know, they are back.)


4 thoughts on “Backstreet Boys are Back! (Sorry, it’s only me.)

  1. larisacastillo says:

    That’s the way it is at first, isn’t it Nikki? But, my guess is that this experience also helped you learn better how to approach the next student. And it’s true that you can only take Student A’s word for whether or not your session was helpful!


  2. Arina says:

    Hey Nikki,
    Great first post! Everyone takes a while to get acclimated. I can speak from my experience that you have a natural inclination towards tutoring and have such a fluid approach with your students. I also appreciated the Backstreet Boys reference, even though I must admit I am partial to NSYNC!


  3. claystripe says:

    I really appreciated your sense of humor, particularly in the respect that I never felt like it got in the way of me understanding where you’re at in the tutoring process and what specific challenges you’ve been facing getting settled in. You’re totally qualified for this, it just takes some time.


  4. Rachon says:

    I felt the same way going in as a peer tutor – severely under qualified and surely to make a mess of the whole thing. It’s an interesting feeling recognizing your limitations as a “teacher” in a setting where the feedback is immediate and has an implication on someone else’s understanding of the material.


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