Tutor Style

I’m going to ask you to rebuild your argument or thinking process, stone by stone.

I have been tutoring students off and on since 2008, when I completed an internship in Peer Tutoring at the Writing Center of my alma mater, Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland. Among our source material were Diana Hacker, Strunk & White, and Bird by Bird. I learned to focus on drawing out pockets of hidden knowledge from the student, and encouraging them, through Socratic method, to expand their critical thinking.

I continued this work as a Writing Studio tutor at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore, where I conducted hour-long sessions with young artists. Together, we worked on art history papers, personal essays, and applications. We edited and discussed short stories, reading assignments, and even personal correspondence. Many of my students were non-native English speakers, had special learning needs, or were hearing-impaired. In the latter case, I took an iPad to these students’ classes, and transcribed then edited lectures and discussions for sessions as long as six hours.

My students are great thinkers, brilliant in their favorite medium, but either struggle when it comes to translating their ideas into plain English, or just need an expert pair of eyes on work they’re pretty sure is okay as is. When we put our heads together, we can turn “okay” into “WOAH, okay.”

Meeting in person is ideal. However, I am open to remote tutoring, at an adjusted rate. Shoot me an email and we can hash it out: julianaconverse@gmail.com

My Method

1. When we meet, I’m going to ask you a lot of questions.

It’s easy to get defensive in this stage if you don’t know where I’m going with it, because the POINT is to help you discover errors in your logic (like basing an argument on an assumption), or missing parts of your central idea. To do that, we’ll first need to identify your central idea.

  • What is your subject?
  • What is your assignment?
  • What is your argument?
    • HOW are you building your argument?

If at any point you don’t know an answer to my question, that’s HELPFUL. That means we’ve just isolated an area that should be your first priority when you revise.

2. While we chat, I’ll be listening.

I might be making a weird, faraway expression, or else do my crazy-eye excited face, but I will be hearing you. Because I am trying to figure out how you think–and not in a creepy way. I’m listening for cues that answer a few of my questions about how you learn best.

  • Do you have a special need?
    • Do you prefer to take your notes in a notebook or on a computer?
    • Do you need to be able to read my lips or speak slowly for an interpreter?
    • Would you prefer we not make eye contact?
    • Do you need me to speak to you in simple English, with no idioms? (I can’t promise I won’t slip up. I’m told I speak non-traditionally.)
  • Do you need to go back to your professor or revisit your source?
    • I might send you off to take care of this before we say another word. Otherwise, we’re just shooting the breeze, as they say.
  • Are you just so stressed out you can’t think anymore?
    • That’s totally fine, and normal. It’s not wasting our time to take a break, step back, take a brief walk or chat about something else entirely. I’ll make you tea, or get you tissues. We’ll get through it together.
  • Are we going to need another appointment to talk about grammar?
    • Since I’m not going to point out every single instance of one problem, we need to make time for you to practice finding them on your own.

3. I’ll read your SHORT piece.

**Up to ten pages double-spaced, unless they’re poems, or the first ten pages.**

You can summarize the remainder of the work. Because chances are, the problems that show up in your first ten pages will show up again in the remaining hundred.

I am open to manuscript consultations by special request. For these, I have a higher rate than normal tutoring sessions.

4. I’ll give you a sandwich.

Well, let’s call it a constructive feedback sandwich.

  • I’ll tell you what’s working.
    • Let me show you first of all that you have something going in your favor before we tackle problems.
  • I’ll tell you what’s not.
    • Are you addressing the appropriate audience?
    • Does your evidence add up to your argument?
    • Does your writing “flow” from one idea to the next or are they all randomly listed?
    • Am I understanding what you mean?
  • I’ll show you how to fix it.
    • English is tricky enough, but it’s always evolving. We might have to do some research together, but we’ll both learn something.
    • I do have a ton of tricks up my sleeve for remembering some basic conventions, and we can modify these to suit your particular learning style.
    • I’ll show you some examples of common grammatical errors, then have you practice finding more in your own writing.
    • Even the best writers have someone else read their work and hunt for errors.

5. offyougo

The goal is to send you off to work.

A lot of students know they need help…sometimes just getting started. After an hour-long session, during which you’ve taken notes and helped me with the dissection of your work, you will have everything you need to move forward with the next steps. I’ll send you home with a manageable plan of action with what I’ve predicted will be specific, accomplishable goals.



My Students Still Like Me

I won’t take it personally if we don’t click, and neither should you. Tutor-Tutee (that’s you) relationships depend on chemistry, and maybe you learn better with someone else. But some of my regular tutees at MICA became regular pen pals as they embarked on exciting travels or careers in art, design, and entrepreneurship.

“Juliana’s tutoring advanced my writing from okay to fantastic. Each session with her resulted in immediate, concrete improvements. She gives constructive feedback in a sincere, personable way. I’d be a crap writer without her help!”

-Jeremy Cain, ’16