Subject: RE: WC update--
rob, let’s post this on the web site. it crystallizes so much of what we have been talking about and working for.
As tutors, we have an obligation toward the student and her relation to the assignment at hand. The student seeks to “succeed” by fulfilling what is asked—. (Indeed sometimes—maybe even, imho, often--our students are too inclined in such a direction—their strategies having resulted in the sorts of successes that lead them to a place like Creighton, and “beyond.”)
At the same time, we need to balance and/or weigh this “dynamic” against what we know is the greatest obligation—or opportunity—we share: the relation of the student toward her own writing—toward her own voice—toward her own capacity to make her world—academic, composed, and otherwise—in on and through her own terms. This also is not “ours,” of course, although it might be in a sense an occasion we might be lucky enough to share in.
So—to use a real example—do we state that the professor to whom the student is responding is “wrong”—even when we might feel the professor is? Maybe the professor’s assignment offers what we deeply hold to be a misguided understanding of the roles of writing, thought, even autonomy or several other such political and/or socio-cultural concerns--. Or, for example, do we endorse the student’s view that the grade the professor has offered is “wrong?” I think ultimately the answer has to be that we don’t “state” that—in a sense, we don’t even “hint at” that, per se. But we take the time—in these and all cases--and it is not “extra” time since it is fundamental to our enterprise—to focus together on meaningful and consequential options and choices—on what is wanted or needed to be said; and how. We listen; we, as you are tired of hearing me say, “let the session breathe.” And we do so in ways that work to empower all involved. The “specifics” of this shared work will, of course, vary immeasurably student to student just as it will tutor to tutor; writer to writer; minute to minute. (We might talk about relations to writing generally. We might talk about our relations to the whole enterprise in and through their writing. Or maybe we don’t “get” to the writing, per se, at all--. Infinite options and choices.) These are complicated dynamics, each carrying risks and rewards. But I have always felt that good teaching involved a rather huge risk to reward ratio.
What I reiterate here is nothing new, of course. Teaching is always a shared, collaborative, activity, where the “teacher” learns and grows and changes more than, and/or along with, the “student .” We will of course continue talking about and enacting all this and more--. Thanks. rob
©2008 Barbara Ball