Helping Others and Myself: Reflections of a Writing Center Tutor
My journey to the Writing Center started last year, in my dorm room, on the phone with a friend a few years my senior. While giving me advice on how to bolster my professional resume he mentioned that he had been a tutor in the Writing Center and that his law school admissions officers were very impressed by that. The ability to think quickly on your feet, analyze and present key issues at hand and work collaboratively are all in high demand. I figured that this would be a great opportunity to increase my involvement on campus and add something significant to my professional resume. I decided then and there that I would take the steps to become a tutor myself.
The other main reason I wanted to become a tutor was the paid tutoring. On many a late night, friends would ask me to skim through their various papers and give feedback, and I found myself enjoying this process — I found it very fulfilling. So I thought to myself, “if I’m doing this anyway, I might as well do it more often in an organized, structured setting, and get paid for my time and effort.”
The application process was fairly simple and straightforward. I had to ask two professors to fill out brief recommendation forms, submit a recent writing sample and answer a few questions, including how I would approach giving feedback on a provided writing sample. After a Zoom interview, I was happy to be notified of my acceptance as a Writing Center tutor. Then came the summer and a reading and writing assignment which we new tutors had to complete as part of our pre-tutoring training. Once the fall semester began, the new tutors were required to “sit in” on two Zoom tutoring sessions from veteran tutors, in order to get a better sense of what a tutoring session may look like. Finally, after this long — but not too arduous — process, I was knighted as a full Writing Center tutor.
Allow me to be candid here — I did not feel like I was ready. I had too many concerns swirling through my mind: What if I freeze up and don’t know what to say at any given moment? I am supposed to be the all-knowing tutor after all. What if I am woefully unfamiliar with the type of writing brought in? The Writing Center caters to all types of writing, including but not limited to lab reports and creative writing, cover letters and resumes, graduate papers and faculty publications — the list goes on. I feared I simply would not know what to do and how to do it.
I quickly discovered that my fears were for naught. Through organized training workshops and discussions with other tutors — not to mention good old practice and experience — I realized that I was overthinking things, and many of these “problems” were not problems at all. I learned that there were resources available for when I needed help. I learned that sometimes, a spell of silence in a session is a good thing. But most of all, I learned that as a tutor, it is not my job to ensure and guarantee that the paper will be an “A”; it is my job to help the tutee with whatever he is requesting with his writing, and to try my best. That was something I knew I could do.
Looking back, I can fondly identify a couple of additional reasons to become a Writing Center tutor, and how they have positively impacted me. The first is the opportunity to meet new people. Last year in YU, it was hard enough to do so, with the unique load of Torah learning, afternoon classes and schoolwork taking up much of my time and headspace. Obviously, the pandemic has made that much harder during the past year. But working in the Writing Center has allowed me to stumble upon new faces here and there, people whom I otherwise would likely never have had the opportunity to meet. The second is the improvement of my own writing. Having the consistent opportunity to see how others think and write has provided me with new insights into how to approach assignments and my writing—and in some delightful cases, what not to do!
So come visit me or any of the other talented tutors in the Writing Center. Whether you're a lowerclassmen or upperclassmen, in a First-Year Writing course or in graduate school, you can make an appointment and find out more information online. There are few reasons to not come — you can bring in any stage of writing (finished product, a draft, or even just the assignment prompt), and it’s completely free of charge! Looking forward to seeing you soon.
Appointments for the Wilf Campus Writing Center can be made at https://yu.mywconline.net/. Wilf students interested in applying to be writing center tutors should follow the instructions at that link. The deadline to apply for the Fall 2021 semester is Apr. 18.
Photo Caption: Writing Center appointments are happening online this semester due to COVID-19.
Photo Credit: Aharon Nissel