As far as my personal experiences go, I can’t say I had to get a lot of help when writing in High School. Essays would come up, and I would do the editing by myself. Most of the time, this was good enough, and I would get an acceptable grade on my work. Revision for me was more of an introspective thing, and I didn’t think I needed help when editing papers. In fact, I was usually the one helping my friends with their essays. This worked very well for me until I got to College, when I realized that I couldn’t stay stuck in the mindset that I would never need help improving my writing. Tutors, whether they are professional or otherwise, can be incredibly useful for aspiring writers. It allows a fresh set of eyes to see a piece of work that you have probably stared at for hours on end, and they would be able to shed some light on issues you probably never would’ve noticed. An outside perspective is never a bad asset to have when writing, which is something I’ve come to appreciate as I’ve started editing papers for High School students online. What I didn’t realize when getting into tutoring though, was that tutoring students I don’t know is vastly different from giving feedback to my friends. I didn’t know how to edit meaningfully, and that’s where the readings I have done over the semester have helped my greatly.
What I think I tutor does for a student is give them an outside opinion of what they are doing, they provide feedback about information they may have hit or missed, and most importantly, gives them encouragement to keep going. Sure there are other options for getting writing tips, like looking up tips online, but sitting down with a tutor is often is more personal experience. One of the bigger pieces of advice I have gotten from tutoring is that balancing criticism and praise is vitally important. If you give too much praise, the student won’t see their mistakes. If you critique them too harshly, the student won’t feel like they’ve done anything meaningful. Knowing what to say and how to say it is key, but what I think I really need to keep in mind is that these are students. From reading the Spandel article, Write Badly, I was reminded that not everyone is going to know how to “write well”, and won’t take risks to become better writers. To quote Spandel, “Somewhere along the way, school became a place where it is not okay to fail–ever. What a shame. Fear of failure increases stress and minimizes willingness to take chances.” (63) Thinking back on my writing in High School, I would say I wasn’t a risk-taker. I knew what pleased my teachers, and did what they expected. As a result, I never really evolved in my writing, and was always just good enough. With that information, I will always encourage writers to take more risks and vocalize ideas that they have. They might not come out perfectly, but at least they’ll be trying to improve. It’s okay for their first attempts to have mistakes, and it’s my job as a tutor and a teacher to not only help them navigate past the mistakes, but to grow from them.