I’m a writing tutor at a community college. For 19 hours a week, I reveal the concealed beauties of student writers by guiding them through the writing process, one writing task at a time.
Being a writing tutor is partly technical and partly social. Seldom is the tutoring session just about the essay or the research paper or the cover letter. The writing process is a deeply personal process, so I’m usually working through the student’s beliefs about themselves as writers and as human beings, and both of which can be unhelpful to their growth if left un-tutored.
Most of my students were taught to read and comprehend, but they were not taught to write. The paradigm of standardized testing was unconcerned with their ideas. Writing was an afterthought in their education, because they were taught to hear and not be heard. To them, other people had ideas worth listening to; my students were shown that their ideas weren’t. They were shown that superficial parts of writing—such as spelling and grammar—were more important than revision and understandability.
So, I have the job of tutoring students in how to tell their truth through some of the conventions of rhetoric, argument, research, and expression. What they didn’t get to learn and practice before college, and what their college professors don’t have time to do in class or in office hours, and where their scholarly and spiritual worth has yet to be revealed—that’s where I come in.
I have dreams about my work and my coworkers. The dreams are positive but they always have the feeling of new territory. This might be because each day as a tutor, the interaction I have with my coworkers and students are as new as they are routine.
A day at work and a tutoring session might have some predictable moves, like a game of chess, or a narrative. “E2-E4.” “What brings you in?”
But each tutoring session follows the path of a water droplet on a pane of glass during a storm. It converges and fragments across a window as we peer into or out from the soul, taking on new forms as we go. It might be routine, but it’s never the same.
My dreams are forever altered by this job. The work I do doesn’t just change the students. The work changes me and my dreams.
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