I love my job. Most college students must rally the motivation to write their own papers, so few can imagine reading other peers’ theses and conclusions for a few hours in the evening. I’d happily read double-spaced, 12-point font, MLA formatted papers all night though.
I work at Washington and Lee’s Writing Center as a tutor, helping students improve their writing and put thoughts on paper in a logical, thoughtful way. I started tutoring the fall of 2016, so I have gained a fair amount of experience, learning key things to look for when reading papers.
One of the most rewarding parts of my job is the feedback that I receive from previous students that I have tutored. I’ll sometimes run into students on campus I have tutored and they’ll mention how they did on their paper. I once received a Facebook message from a first year that I helped during my first weeks at the writing center, excitedly telling me that she had done well on her first college paper. But the best feedback of all? Students that return to the Writing Center after their first visit with a new paper and new ideas.
However, there have been a few work shifts when I noticed my words being discounted. One night a group of students, working on a video project, had a few questions about their script. They didn’t have an appointment but I had some time before the next appointment slot, so I welcomed them into the Writing Center. The group wanted to reword their script but were having difficulty with the grammar and phrasing. I made a few suggestions as to how they convey their intentions while avoiding errors. A girl in the group listened, asking question and editing on a laptop, as I explained.
“…so I think that would be best way to–”
“That’s not right. I don’t think that’s right. We need to–”
The guy in the group kept objecting. The conversation was becoming circular. My coworker looked up from his book, raising his eyebrows.
“No, she is right,” my coworker interjected, closing his book. “That’s correct.”
“Oh ok.” The guy took his word for it. “Thanks.” The group left. I appreciated my coworker’s support that night, but I think we both wished that his input hadn’t been necessary.
Another night, a student stared at his phone as I discussed his paper. I noted what was working well in the paper already and what could be improved.
“I’m not really sure if he even wanted help. He was staring at his phone the whole time…” I said to my coworker afterwards.
“Why didn’t you say something? If I had known, I would have said something to him!”
“If you said something to him, he would probably put his phone away and say, ‘Oh sorry, man.’ But if I said something, he would think I was being b*tchy.”
My partner looked at me moment. “You know what?” he said, “You’re right.”
A woman’s words and a man’s words are different. The scale tips to one side.