Finals week is a stressful week for anyone on a college campus, students and faculty included. The Learning Center can be a hub of salvation, yet also immense stress.
I worked two different walk-in shifts during finals week and the anxiety in the area was palpable. It’s hard, as a tutor, to also ease the anxieties of those coming to you for help as well as handle your own.
I was lucky that this finals week I didn’t have as many responsibilities as other students, so I was able to fully dedicate my time and focus into helping those who came in for writing assistance.
Two students came in during my last shift working on revisions on the same paper, and those revisions needed serious help. Both students had received near-failing grades on the paper, and I really wanted to help them improve.
However, with the both of them coming in with under an hour left in my shift, there wasn’t a lot of time. I dedicated the majority of time introducing them to citation tools to help them avoid the plagiarism they were getting WAY too close too, and the rest was going through and helping them with their thesis.
This session made me reflect on the fact that not every major focuses on written communication skills. One tutee asked me, “How are you so good with this?”
I responded, “Well, I’m an English major. I’m writing a paper every week, it feels like.”
He told me he hadn’t written a paper since high school. He’s graduating with me this Saturday.
Finals week is a time of reflecting on the entire semester’s learning. How can professors feel so confident in assigning papers when they don’t teach their students what they expect from a paper? If a field of study doesn’t require written communication skills, why cap off the semester in giving your students something they don’t now a lot about?
I know I left those two tutees with more skills than their professor had provided them in writing papers, which is a shame. The same tutee mourned the fact he was just learning about citations, “I didn’t even know that was there. Four years here, and I didn’t know you could cite like this.”
I hope there can be more communication between professors and the Learning Center about how to teach their students how to write papers. I find it unfair in both the position of a student and a tutor to expect a major that never writes to determine a final grade on an underutilized skill.