Peer-Tutoring, Writing and Growth

I’ve never been the biggest fan of peer-tutoring sessions—and that’s the understatement of the century.

In fact, I used to hate them. A lot. I went to a super competitive high school where peer-tutoring sessions were merely a chance for all the “super smart” kids to rip apart the shy kids (that could easily have been just as smart, they just weren’t as assertive). Those “super smart” kids were just soul-sucking mongrels who fed on the insecurities of others. I know that’s a little harsh, but those teenagers always made me feel terrible about myself.

Writing reflects your thoughts and feelings, so when they mocked my writing, it struck a different chord than the typical academic criticism I received from my teachers. My peers weren’t trying to help me improve academically—in fact, they wanted to tear my confidence down—if I failed, they won, because they got the “A.”

In my head, “peer-tutoring” was attached to this stigma of intense inadequacy, until I was paired with Miss Michelle Mendoza.

Although we’ve had a class together in the past, this was the first time I was able to sit down, chat and get to know her. By the time we started reading each others’ papers, I felt comfortable with her and was hopeful about the type of feedback I would receive—and I hoped I would be able to provide her with some insight on her own writing.

We took turns; I read what she had done so far and wrote down my thoughts as I went along, and she did the same for me.  To be blatantly honest, I’m always a little surprised when I read writing that is actually engaging. I often edit my friends’ papers for them, and I always dread it because I secretly hate their writing. It’s just so boring (even the word boring is boring).

Michelle’s writing was engaging, funny and descriptive. I loved it. There wasn’t much to correct because she only had about 400 words written. It was the intro to her Literacy Narrative, but I could clearly see where she was going with it. And I sincerely and thoroughly enjoyed what she wrote.

I had some trouble accepting how she phrased certain things and we talked about what her intent was, and how she could make her points more effective. I didn’t feel like a teacher or that I was above her in any way; I truly felt like we were equals and I was merely offering a different perspective—either one of us could have been right and neither one of us was more “credible.” It was a collaborative effort- it was a dialogue.

Michelle is a very strong writer with a clear vision and a lot of stylistic control. I only started paying attention to how I write and how I present my ideas this year. I used to focus mostly on the ideas and then word vomit on the page. Michelle makes intentional stylistic choices, and it’s very admirable.

Michelle also read my 550-word draft. She looked intently focused as she read and it made me nervous—I thought she didn’t like my writing style.

This is the first thing Michelle told me when she finished reading my draft: “You know, I’m kinda surprised right now. To be honest. Not to be rude, like, I liked you before I read this, but now, I feel so much more connected to you. I feel like I know you. People who have it all together aren’t that interesting or likeable. This was vulnerable and raw and I didn’t realize you were that deep…”

I was super taken aback. I knew Michelle was complimenting me, but I didn’t realize that I gave off such a superficial vibe! I guess it’s better to look like you’re fine instead of the other way around. But, still!

Anyways, Michelle really helped me. She pointed out specific stylistic choices I made (even though I didn’t realize it), and highlighted some inconsistent parts that could be edited. She said that my writing has a rhythmical and poetic feel to it.  Michelle’s instructions paralleled the lessons my other English professor, Dr. Gunner, has been giving my Academic Narrative’s class. She essentially pointed out the importance of intent in writing. I have so much authorial power to dictate how my readers will feel and perceive the subject matter I am writing about. I also don’t always have to use short sentences with lots of periods—there are other forms of punctuation—who would have guessed?

It’s all about consistency and intent. Before this year, my writing was always “idea-motivated.” As long as the content was good, I knew I would get a good grade. I never thought about style. That word is foreign to me. I have no style—be it in fashion, life or writing. But Michelle told me I did, and she made me realize that style, like everything else in life, can be improved, with practice.

My peer-tutoring session made me feel empowered, excited to get to work and motivated to improve my writing. It didn’t tear down my confidence the way high school peer tutoring did. I feel completely opposite of inadequate. I feel uplifted, inspired and motivated to write. I hope my Literacy Narrative is up to par. I wanna make Michelle proud!

I think I’ll give peer-tutoring sessions another chance.


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s