Who Wants to Be a Peer Writing Tutor?

Who wants to play… would you make a good peer writing tutor? I don’t know about you, but as much as I love reality TV, sometimes I wish I could put the show hosts to the test. All of the following reality show hosts are given the task of judging their contestants each week, but not all of them provide the most effective constructive criticism. So, to find out definitively where these famous reality stars rank, I’ve decided to compare their feedback strategies to UCWbL best practices, to better reflect on why we, as peer tutors, tutor the way we do. Or, maybe I just watch too much television.

Tyra_Banks_2012_ShankboneTyra Banks
Tutor Grade: C
Tutoring Strategy: You can tell the infamous America’s Next Top Model host truly wants her contestants to succeed, by often appearing on set to give tips and lead exercises, everything from facial expressions to runway walks. But though her feedback is well-intended, it’s often vague and difficult for the models to apply (what even is smizing??) Not to mention, Tyra is notorious for taking the focus off the models and putting it on herself; constantly comparing their performances to her own supermodel days, and even decorating the contestants’ residency entirely with pictures of herself.

Stacy_LondonStacy London and Clinton Kelly
Tutor Grade: B+
Tutoring Strategy: Dedicated viewers of What Not to Wear might argue that hosts Stacy London and Clinton Kelly’s feedback gets repetitive after a few episodes. They have their go-to tips for a successful makeover: a fitted jacket, a straight-leg jean, and silhouettes that complement the contestant’s figure. But this is only because they know their own best practices, and they know what works. A good peer writing tutor also has their best strategies on hand, and doesn’t hesitate to share them with any writer they encounter. Stacy and Clinton’s one drawback is that, as a result, they don’t always allow their contestants to maintain ownership over their looks. Some contestants are perfectly happy with how they dress, and fitting these contestants into a mold of how someone should look could take away from their voice as an individual.

Gordon_Ramsay_and_LambGordon Ramsay
Tutor Grade: B-
Tutoring Strategy: Host of many shows, including Masterchef and Kitchen Nightmares, Gordon Ramsey is notorious for yelling at contestants if they don’t produce top-quality work. But, though this might be his on-screen gimmick, he also gives helpful, specific feedback that the contestants are eager to apply to their cooking. And, as viewers of Masterchef Junior know, Gordon Ramsey isn’t always so cruel. When working with kids, he gives a balance of praise and criticism, yelling excluded, which effectively motivates them to work toward being better chefs.

abby lee millerAbby Lee Miller
Tutor Grade: D
Tutoring Strategy: The Dance Moms instructor is often under scrutiny for traumatizing children, and it’s pretty easy to see why. Consistently yelling at her students to improve their technique and judging them based on their score at the weekly dance competitions, rather than on their individual improvement, Abby Lee Miller hardly represents the ideal qualities of a peer writing tutor. That being said, she has been known to get results—and for a select group of girls, who don’t mind harsh criticism and who are truly aiming to become stars, her directive approach could be a good fit. They just aren’t the strategies we want to exemplify as peer writing tutors.

tim gunnTim Gunn
Tutor Grade: A
Tutoring Strategy: When Tim Gunn utters his famous catchphrase, “make it work,” as host and mentor on Project Runway, it’s with the implication that the designer may need to do some revision to succeed, but should ultimately follow their own gut and vision. Giving every designer fair and applicable criticism as they complete their weekly challenges, Tim Gunn tries to take into account who the designer is as an artist, what they can reasonably get done in the allotted time, and how they can get the best reaction from the judges. His advice is specific, without overpowering the designer’s ownership of their work.

So, there you have it: my non-exhaustive list of how famous reality show personalities would function at the UCWbL.  What do you think?  Have you ever seen your own tutoring practices reflected by reality show judges?  Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Maggie C. says:

    Hi Elizabeth!

    This article was so much fun! I really enjoyed reading it. I thought you were spot on with all of the “tutors,” but I think something else to consider is that they’re evaluating who they are working with. I’d like to think that tutors like us don’t evaluate writers and only provide good feedback.

    Personally, I think Tyra is a very directive tutor, and while being directive isn’t bad, she took it to the extreme. From what I remember about ANTM, she was always telling the models what to do. She even forced makeovers on them because she thought that would provide the models with their best look.