Are We Masochists? Two Tutors Explain Why They Said “Yes.”

By November 5, 2012Peer Writing Tutoring

Miranda S. and Jenny Y. here to talk to you guys about our decision to pursue a position at the UCWbL after surviving the grueling application process—a process that involved preparing writing samples, a killer statement of intent, recommendation letters and an interactive interview. Arduous, yes—it seems obvious to accept an offer after surviving such an ordeal. And yet, when we received the much-anticipated email in our inboxes, we froze.

Why? Well, writing is difficult.

The application process forced us to re-evaluate ourselves as writers, not only as tutors. Where did we get off thinking we could help anybody? What could we possibly offer? After getting the job, we both felt a keen sense of anxiety at the prospect of sitting across from writers looking to us for feedback on their drafts. But what did we know about writing? Yes, we’re good writers (and aren’t afraid to admit it). What did it mean, however, to impart the knowledge that we had to our peers? All of a sudden, we had to face what it meant to write, what it meant to engage in a dialogue about syntax and form and clarity. And it was terrifying.

Writing papers for class is not easy. We still stress over them. We don’t finish (or even start) papers and assignments a week in advance. We’re a part of the many who are still editing the eve of a deadline. We’re not shiny examples of perfect writers who have it all figured out. How could we possibly tutor when we couldn’t even brainstorm and outline and revise our drafts countless times before submitting an assignment?

We think that the unknown variable surrounding the actual tutoring itself was what scared us the most. Prior to our interviews, we had little to no experience working with peers on writing. Sure, we’d look over a friend’s draft for sentence-level errors. The work that was expected of us once we got hired, however, was an entirely different beast. We had never hunted before.

But, through appointments and conversations with our fellow tutors-in-training, we’ve made it through. We’re survivors. We know how to get it done, how to overcome obstacles of not knowing the subject well, not understanding the prompt, not knowing where to begin, writing outside of our comfort zones, confusing ourselves in the process, thinking that we know what we’re doing only to get muddled somewhere in between outline and final draft.

And believe us when we say that introductions and conclusions frustrate and stress us out more than anything. (We’re looking into acquiring stress balls). Sometimes that clever, interesting introduction that grabs the audience and relates to the text just comes to you, and other times it just doesn’t.  We’re one of you; we’re on the same page. We have to talk ourselves down from the point of panic and similarly have to talk ourselves up from the point of constant self-deprecation.

We can help. It’s what we want to do. It’s why we said, “yes.”