Most of the students we help at the Writing Studio come to us with a feeling of anxiousness and fear over their writing. Whether the student is a native English speaker or second language learner, the feelings are very similar. Often times, we get into the mode of “tutor” and mechanically offer the same kind of advise over and over because most of our students need help in the same areas: grammar, sentence structure, and organization. As a tutor–our auto-pilot switches on for many reasons. We are tired, we know these issues inside and out, or we sometimes hear the same questions being asked by our students. Whatever the case may be, we should always remember to slip in a few words of encouragement, so that our students feel good about themselves and their writing.
As a composition instructor, each semester I hear students’ anxieties about their writing–they often feel insecure, unsure of themselves, and lost in terms of writing in specific academic styles. I also notice that instructor feedback can be an overwhelming and disheartening experience for beginner writers of academic prose. While, this is not an excuse to “take it easy” on students, I feel, in the studio, tutors have a responsibility to interpret instructor feedback and ease students’ minds with a little positivity.
Sometimes a simple, “really great progress today during our session,” goes a long way in making the student feel good about what they accomplished in a short time. I take the first few minutes of each session to ask the students how their week is going, what kind of classwork they have coming due, and an overall “how are you feeling today?” Most of the time, students are merely expected to perform and when someone genuinely stops to ask them how they are doing, this simple gesture can really brighten up a foggy or overworked student’s day. Even if the student comes to me with a failing paper, I encourage them by saying they are taking positive steps by coming to the studio to get help. As we progress through the session, I make eye contact and make mention of how focused they are or what great ideas they have about their work.
In closing, sometimes in our busy lives with our busy schedules, it is worthwhile to take the time to encourage our students. They need the positive feedback as well as the constructive–