Embedded tutoring makes up the majority of my sessions at studio, so I focus my energy on building relationships with students. I think this is the key to working with students who are required to attend multiple studio sessions, whether they are coming through the embedded program or student athletics (and otherwise, it might be helpful in encouraging regulars). I noticed during the sessions that corresponded with Project 1 of ENC 1101 that most students either did not want to be here, were nervous about what they were expected to accomplish, or were just plain confused.
In that early phase, I made sure to learn names, and I asked them questions about their academic lives, including their majors and post-college aspirations. In the sessions that followed, I mentioned these little details, asked them follow-up questions, or referred to their previous writing to show them that I was keeping up with their progress. While I had specific goals for each session that were tied to the project, I welcomed conversation about other academic topics, and I invited questions about my own academic path.
As they got to know me and my role in their class, many students began to show more accountability, whether it was to tell me more about what was going on in their class (they can be excellent sources of the instructors’ communications, if you are not in constant contact) or to ask me larger order questions about the aim of a project. I could tell that they were starting to realize that I provided many different kinds of resources to which they would not normally have access. They also began to look at the larger picture of their topics and the progression of assignments. As a result, they began to show more agency in their work. One student in particular comes to mind. She began to connect her topic to the concepts she was learning in her cultural anthropology class and told me she was really interested in continuing her studies in this vein.
Now that we are entering the last phase of the semester, I spend much of the intake part of my sessions catching up with each student, asking them how they performed on their last assignments, what their instructor has told them in class, if they are unsure about anything, how they are feeling, etc. Because of this continuity, the tone is now more relaxed, and they have been even more forthcoming about their challenges. They often ask me how they improve their grades, and while I remind them that I have no influence on their evaluation, I help them make plans to get through the rest of the semester. I think it’s important to put ourselves in students’ places and adapt to their concerns even while maintaining a professional relationship. Most of my sessions have become a bit like a sounding board, and I hope students feel like they are talking to a knowledgeable peer, not a second instructor.
Note: A key component to maintaining a continuous line of communication with students is interaction with the instructor. I think checking in on a regular basis about project requirements and student performance enriches my work as a tutor, but that might be for another post.