Welcome, dear reader. Gather round the campfire, for today I will tell you the most frightening, most horrific, most obscenely distressing tale of my tutoring experience as of yet. Be warned– this frightening story is unfortunately true, and it can happen to any of us. Including you.
Our scene begins normally, with the smiling tutor making her way into her designated office at some ungodly time of the morning. She sips her tea and opens her laptop as she awaits her only appointment for the day. The tutee has scheduled an appointment for the last half hour of the tutor’s shift, so our heroine has a bit of time to wait. She cues up a quiet Spotify playlist and reads some Marvell.
When the tutee walks in, she seems innocuous enough– the frazzled look of a pre-midterm freshman that clearly has stayed up too long doing nothing productive. The tutor remembers those days. She sets down her tea and moves to greet the student warmly. As she opens her mouth, however, the world turns dark, storm clouds brewing angrily in the distance. Thunder cracks and the lights flicker. The student reaches into her backpack. The tutor hears ominous cackling in the distance.
“I need you to edit this paper due in two hours,” the student blurts out, throwing her laptop at the tutor. Instantly, the ground opens up and hellfire erupt. The tutor screeches in horror as the Demons of Word pull her into the Underworld with green and red squiggly arms, dousing her in unattached dependent clauses and strange font choices and words spelled atrociously. The tutor was never seen again.
As a tutor, it’s my job to guide writing. It’s my job to point out how a student can expand their vocabulary by pointing out when they’re describing a concept without naming it. It’s my job to identify where their argument is weak and prompt them to figure out how they can incorporate more evidence or better claims or tie everything back to the thesis so that their essay is on synchronic masterpiece that they can feel good about displaying. It takes time: the tutee needs to come in with enough time to discuss their paper and think over the changes, revise as needed, and then turn it in. I’d say a solid day in advance is the least you can get away with.
It’s not my job to sit there and mark up their paper and magically get them an A within two hours– who do they think I am???
This experience was hands-down the worst experience with a tutee I have had yet. Not only did she want me to “fix” — a word I distinctly remember North tearing to shreds– her essay, but she did not want to cooperate as I gave her suggestions on where to improve. For instance, when I said, “I think you should take another look at your thesis. Do you think it summarizes your argument?”, she asked me to write her a new thesis. That wasn’t even my question, help???
We didn’t “fix” her essay. I pointed out where her essay needed work and basically forced her to reanalyze the picture she was looking at so she could actually use evidence within her paper. I told her what her weakest points were– mostly that there really wasn’t much of an argument as much as a summary of what happened in the picture– and told her ways in which she could take the analysis she had just done and shape that into a “perspective of empire.” But, as a tutor, there really is only so much you can do when you are on a time crunch. I wasn’t going to write her essay for her. I refused to analyze the image alone and point out what she should notice (mostly because there was a heck of a lot to notice and I didn’t know what was relevant to her fairly nonexistent argument).
I think we both walked out of that meeting unsatisfied. As she left, I told her good luck and she just waved.
It’s frustrating when your expectations are different. I expected a receptive student and a longer time frame for her to really think about her essay after the meeting. She expected a magical “fix.” I tried, but that isn’t something I can ever give a student. 😦