Writers can often be apprehensive when meeting with a writing mentor, especially if this is their first visit to the Study Skills Centre. It is important to make your writer feel comfortable and in control of their session. Below are some key points adapted from “The Bedford Guide for Writing Tutors” about starting your writing session.
Introduce yourself. If the writer is apprehensive about their session then the last thing they need is an intimidating mentor! It is important to be friendly, welcoming and polite. Address your writer by their name, offer them a seat and then once you are both comfortable you can engage in conservation. Begin simply by asking about the assignment, how the writer feels about it and how much progress they feel they are making. If you have worked with the writer before, ask how the last assignment went and how they have improved since. This shows an interest in personal development and builds rapport. An exchange of pleasantries at the beginning of a session helps put the writer at ease and gets the session off to a good start.
Give the student control. Keep the paper or piece of work in front of the student as much as possible. If you are working at a computer, a good idea is to let the writer control the keyboard and monitor. This serves as a reminder to the writer that this is their writing and they are in control of it – and is sometimes a useful reminder to the tutor too! This also allows you to act as the audience whilst the writer leads the session as much as they are comfortable with.
Keep resources and tools nearby. It is useful to have paper and pens to hand, and this should not be overlooked. As much as you want the mentee to do most of the writing, sometimes it may be necessary to demonstrate a point or provide an example. It is also useful if you are familiar with the help sheets or resources that you have, so you are able to share these with the writer when this is necessary.
Reference: Ryan, L. and Zimmerelli, L. (2010). The Bedford Guide for Writing Tutors. Fifth Edition. Boston, New York: Bedford/ St. Martins.