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In Tutors' Own Words

To demonstrate our firm belief in the value of writing in multiple different forms, we have provided an alternate version of this job description below.  This description was collaboratively written by OWRC staff members:

“Mostly what we do is talk.

“A good tutor knows how to ask the right questions to get writers talking  –  about their projects, about their ideas, about their classes, about what they’re trying to accomplish, about their own past experiences.  In our perfect world, all the writers we work with become more confident, more independent, more comfortable with but also more sophisticated about their own writing and learning.

“We never know what the next one-to-one session will bring. A returning student drafting the methods section of their Master’s thesis in Nursing. A new firsts year student from small-town Washington working on their first English composition paper. A multilingual International student putting the finishing touches on a dissertation chapter on nanotechnology. A first-generation college student trying to control a really unwieldy chemistry lab report. A senior finance major brainstorming ideas for their upcoming business competition speech. A mechanical engineer revising a how-to guide for their robotics team. Lots of it is new to us, and we don’t pretend we have all the answers. We learn to trust in the expertise of the writer. Most writers just need someone who will read their work thoughtfully and be interested in helping them develop it further.  

“And we listen.  Really listen.  

“We offer ideas – strategize and troubleshoot, discuss the work they’ve done and what they still might do, brainstorm ideas for what questions to ask instructors, model a new skill, provide our responses as readers to what they’ve written so far, help make sense of other feedback they’ve gotten.

“It means we have to be pretty flexible, always customizing our tutoring to the needs of the writer we’re working with at that moment, always figuring out new types of writing.  It means we have to be relaxed and approachable, patient, so the writer feels like they can really say what’s on their mind.  It means we have to have a kind of quiet confidence in our own thinking, research, and drafting practices so that we know what to share that might help the writer out.  But we also have to cultivate the ability to learn from all the writers we work with so that we can round out our own creative problem-solving skills.

“OWRC staff members have all sorts of synonyms for “tutor”: mediator, coach, translator, buffer zone, navigator, advocate, strategist, mentor, co-learner.  We appreciate in each other a wide knowledge base, strong communication skills, critical thinking, creativity, teamwork, intellectual curiosity, and shared commitment to supporting the writers who seek us out.”