Engaging Reluctant Readers

This week’s reading was Muriel Harris’ “Engaging Reluctant Readers”. Aptly named, this reading discusses the issues that create these reluctant clients, such as being made to go to the writing center or having an inability to focus, and the difficulties this presents to the tutor. Namely, the fact that is is extremely difficult to aid someone who is resistant to being helped. I think that different clients respond differently to different tutoring styles and that we must be able to adapt to them the way we as students expect our professors to adapt to us. This is something I try to implement in my microeconomics tutoring practice. I find that at the beginning of the semester, the students who come to me are eager to learn and actually want to understand the material, whereas the students who come at the end of the semester were told to by the professor and just want me to help them pass the class. However, I do believe that most students can be engaged if you can make the material relatable to them. In tutoring microeconomics, I frequently use market examples such as makeup and sports to bring the issues home to students.

Fortunately, this article also discusses ways in which tutors can deal with these problems. One such way is relating with the student, which can be done both tutor to client and material to client. Meaning, as tutors we can either make ourselves relatable to the student, thereby making them more interested in what we have to say, or we make the student relate to the material. Personally, I believe a blend of the two is optimal: first make them want to hear what we have to say, then get them to believe that what we are saying is interesting or important. I believe that this relatability can also help us with what Harris’ identifies as another potential solution: to assuage the writer’s anxieties. This will be easier to do if the writer already relates to us and has confidence in what we day. She also suggests rescheduling for a better time, which I think is effective but less so than the others because I know at least for me, there is never really an “ideal” time. College students are always busy, so we end up looking for our least busy time slot rather than a time that is actually a “good” time. We must also remember to do these things in moderation: relating to a student should not take up half of a session, assuaging a writer’s anxieties may not always be effective so we may need to re-strategize, and in less than ideal situations  rescheduling may sometimes be impossible, like when a paper is due the next day.

Harris also discusses potential problems with the solutions she offered. As someone who studies law, I appreciate a good counter argument section and appreciated its inclusion because I believe it strengthens her argument. When I was in High School, a teacher told me that I liked things to fit into “neat little boxes”, because I like structure and organization and for things to work perfectly. In some cases I like one size fits all solutions. While it does frustrate me that there is no one size fits all solutions where it relates to tutoring writing, it makes sense because each student who walks in the doors of the Writing Center carries with them their own writer’s identity, which has been discussed in previous readings. This identity makes them different, and they do not necessarily all fit into “neat little boxes”, and you know what? That’s okay. What we are learning in class is that tutoring is about tailoring your skills to meet the needs of a particular student, not about trying to get them to fit you.

Overall I think that this article will be useful in my tutoring practice because it offered reassurance that some of the ways I engage students have indeed proven to be effective, and it also provided solutions to problems I had not even thought of, like the idea that there might be other concerns within the student’s outside life that prevents him/her from effectively participating in the tutoring session. It is important to remember that students carry more than just a writing identity into their sessions; they carry both a general identity and a personality. However, an apt tutor will be able to use this personality to engage the student.

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