One of our tutors has taken on this question, and wishes to share his submission:
At our most recent conference one thing that came up was connecting with our students. This gave me pause. I always hear from other tutors on how well I connect with my students and how they seem genuinely pleased and excited to be writing after our sessions. How do we make better connections with our students, connections that leave them all excited about writing and get them coming back for more sessions? I’m not sure I can answer all of this question, but I think I can answer part of it.
For me, writing has never been easy. I have a hard time with rules. I am what you would call anti-authoritarian. I loathe following rules of any sort. However, writing has been a way, in my life, to excise my demons, and to move forward academically – and that is important to me. On some level, I think writing affords us all this opportunity, to excise our demons, find our voices, move forward in our academics. So I empathize with my students, every one of them.
Find their story
One of the first things I ask my students is not about their paper – it's about them. What's their story? Are they the first one in their family back in college? I try to find something that takes them out of the room and into their head. They all have a story and they all want to share it. Try to find creative ways to take them out a space that might be making them nervous or anxious and settle them down. I think this is key.
Build a relationship
We’re all students. We have all had to rush through papers at the last minute throwing words on paper in a mad rush to get something done fast. Tell them your story. Let them know that they aren’t the only ones who have had to do this. Give them a human story with human emotions that lets them know that it’s going to be alright and we are going to get through this together.
Once you have settled them down – start on their work. Let them guide you in their process. Find something small that can be fixed easily. Lead them to it. Try to find a way to guide them to victory on that one small thing. Most of the time a small win can have much more of an impact than a large one. And it builds confidence. Almost all my students come in and tell me they are horrible writers and they apologize to me for it.
Give them your bad writing story, build a relationship with them and show them how they can win. When they leave your center, they won’t be beating themselves up or thinking that they are bad writers; they are going to be thinking about how cool it was that they just came to the writing center and fixed a part of their paper. They will be excited about working on it some more.
We build connections. That’s how we get them coming back and that is how we help them win.
Texas Woman’s University
01 November 2015