Tutoring over Zoom: Connection Error

The best part of being a writing tutor is meeting someone new and getting to help them dive deeper into their essays. You get to see in real time the moment that an idea strikes, the instance where the realize where a sentence could have a better flow, and the pride the tutee has in themselves for being able to do this all.

I was not a writing tutor when the transition from in-person to Zoom happened, but I did participate as a tutee. While still a successful session, there was a disconnect- a disconnect I still see and experience as a tutor when a student requires Zoom participation.

The camera on/camera off debate continues to happen and I find myself switching sides, if only for this moment. One-on-one tutoring sessions are made more effective if both the tutor and the tutee can see each other. During my in-person sessions, I’m constantly looking to my tutee to pick on my non-verbal cues; are they confused? Did they understand my example? I cannot help my students to the best of my ability if I can’t see them.

But then there comes the argument of privacy; the one that I used, personally, as a student during the pandemic. What right do others have to impede on my space? What right do I have to see and experience another’s setting?

To be a tutee is to risk vulnerability. You’re coming to someone for help in something you might not understand or feel confident in. It’s one thing to show up to my table during my hours knowing it’ll just be me and the tutee- it’s another to call into another student’s home, where they may not have the ability to a solitary environment.

I don’t think there’s an easy, black-or-white answer to the Zoom debate. If a student needs a Zoom call in order to receive the help, there is no work around. Is it ethical of me to ask a tutee to turn their cameras on?

This pandemic has exposed the holes in accessibility in learning. While Zoom is a way for those away from campus to still get the help they need, it doesn’t feel like the permanent answer. Maybe one day, a tutor will confidently say that online sessions are just as effective as in-person.

-C.M.

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