The Tutor’s ‘Many Hats’

Over the holiday, I read The Bedford Guide for Writing Tutors, which can be found on the Mentor Room shelf. An excellent book, covering many of the aspects we were trained on, as well as scenarios, common questions and problems, I would definitely recommend it.

One particular little section I thought might be useful for the blog was the section on pp 28-31, on the many roles of the writing mentor both within and between sessions, along with advice and any pitfalls. Here’s a quick summary. But if you have time, give the book a go!

Ally – a friend who supports a writer in difficulty, namely getting their work just right, calling for sympathy, empathy, encouragement, and helpfulness. This can include explaining matters in simple terms, understanding their situation and needs, taking all questions seriously, and smiling!
Coach – instructing and directing someone’s strategy, through observation and evaluation, rather than actually actively participating. This involves asking questions, making comments as a reader, giving options for accomplishing tasks or approaching problems, and explaining information – such as the use of the semicolon – as required.
Commentator – describing the entire process and progress within that, and keeping an eye on the bigger picture. This especially relates to reminding the writer of their eventual audience, when considering structure and corrections.
Collaborator – sharing ideas and discussing content in detail with a writer. However, if mentors are not careful, this can lead to laziness, confusion, and a lack of control on the part of the writer.
Writing ‘expert’ – having extensive experience to be a mentor in the first place, but allowing for the admission of limitations to knowledge and skills. This is a great time to look something up together, and show the writer how to make the most of resources.
Learner – enjoying and learning from writers’ topics and perspectives. Though, it may seem as though the mentor benefits the most from this, and from listening, in fact it can make them the ‘perfect audience’ for the writer, as it encourages them to explain their work, clarify ideas, and become aware of their readers.
Counselor – listening to concerns and issues, such as motivation and time management. Although an element of listening and understanding people’s situations is necessary, if the particular issue seems to be serious, it is worth referring them to Study Skills workshops, Tutors, or even relevant Student Services, such as Wellbeing seminars.

Ryan, Leigh and Lisa Zimmerelli (2010). The Bedford Guide for Writing Tutors. 5th ed. Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s.


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