By Ailyn Del Rio
IF you would have told me four years ago that I would be applying to graduate school, excited to teach composition and writing courses to college undergraduates, I’m not sure I would have believed you.
And if you said that it would happen because of tutoring, I might have squinted and tilted my head to the side.
Tutoring has a stigma tied to it. In high school, tutoring meant that you weren’t smart enough; that you needed extra help because you couldn’t meet the expectations on your own, and therefore you were a less important student. I had a tutor for my geometry class my second year of high school because everything felt too hard and I thought I wouldn’t be able to pass without outside help.
It was that same mentality that brought me back to tutoring in college. During my freshman year in the middle of the pandemic, I found myself taking English literature courses that were both exciting and challenging. I didn’t think I could write upper level papers on my own even though I knew I loved to write.
But when I reached out to Rider’s writing studio for help, something changed. Tutoring wasn’t something that I did because I was weak, and it never actually was about that. Tutoring was a support system that helped me realize that I was always capable; I just needed a bit of collaboration from someone more experienced in college writing to take me to that next level.
And quite frankly, tutoring has become my entire life since then.
After working with Rider’s incredible set of professional writing tutors for a year and a half as a tutee, I took Megan Titus’ “Theories of Writing and Tutoring” class to learn more about becoming a tutor. I found myself rethinking every session I’d ever had, seeing things from the other side of the table, and realized that tutoring requires a lot more questioning than teaching. If you can ask a student good questions that help them restructure their thoughts, you can help them regain their confidence.
Confidence is a huge factor in whether we feel able to write anything in college, whether it’s a major essay assignment or a short 250 word discussion post. If we don’t think we can write, then we’ll never see the incredible things that we can do with the power of language. We’ll never see ourselves write that lab report, or that business proposal or that literary analysis essay. We’ll forever limit ourselves and our potential, regardless of whether we believe we’re meant to be writers or not.
I currently work as both an embedded tutor for composition courses and a student writing consultant in Rider’s writing studio, and I’ve been officially tutoring for over a year now. In both of these roles, I get to work with a diverse group of students who come from all sorts of backgrounds. I get to connect with them, learn what interests them, watch them grow and accomplish incredible things in and out of the classroom, and leave them at the end of the semester knowing that they’re ready to take on the next challenge that comes their way.
That kind of growth doesn’t happen overnight, of course. There are some sessions where I remind students that it’s not always easy, that I was in their shoes and still am when I get tutored (yes, I still attend tutoring sessions for my own classes). It takes a lot of trial and error, multiple drafts and a rough day or two before the writing becomes what you hope.
But having the confidence to try, get back up again, reach out for help, to look at things from a new angle, that’s what will move us closer to our intended destination.
Without tutoring, I wouldn’t have found that confidence. I wouldn’t feel able to reach out to my professors for guidance or take another stab at that essay that felt never ending. I definitely wouldn’t have felt good enough to become a tutor myself. Now, I’m on a mission to help all of my students gain that same confidence. I’m constantly learning more from weekly training sessions and articles about tutoring and writing, and I’m even working on a research study for my honors thesis about fostering student confidence in composition classrooms as I apply for graduate school.
I couldn’t have done any of this without the incredible support system of the Academic Success Center, the writing studio, the embedded tutoring program, my incredible advisor Titus and my family for introducing me to tutoring back in middle school. I hope that all Rider students can experience this same transformation through the power of tutoring.
Visit the Academic Success Center on the top floor of the Bart Luedeke Center and schedule an appointment on TracCloud or by emailing email@example.com.
Managing Editor Jake Tiger and Copy Editor Bridget Hoyt both work for the Academic Success Center. They had no part in the writing or editing of this story.