Over the next several weeks, we will be featuring Tutor Presentation Recaps from our 2015 Conference, CAPTA Connects. This recap is by Emily Wilson, a Senior tutor in the Edison Writing Center.
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players” – do the bard’s words apply to the writing center community? Are tutors like actors, who can take the stage and adopt personas besides their own? Perhaps not exactly, but the connections that could be formed between the actor’s process and tutoring practices cannot be ignored. As a thespian and third year tutor, I thought this would be a fascinating topic to explore.
I began the presentation with a quick theater game, where I instructed participants to pretend that an invisible fishing line is pulling a body part, such as the nose or elbow, in another direction – perhaps to the floor, the ceiling, or even sideways! I asked audience members to freeze in place and conducted “interviews” with them, asking them to create a character based upon their strange position they’d put themselves in. This simple exercise called participants’ attention to the importance of posture, body language, and voice in giving clues that reveal personality and mood. I asked my audience to think about how their posture and body language reveals subtle aspects of their own character, first addressing the theater kids in the room, and then opening the question up to everyone.
I explained the process of getting into character for the stage, talking about what I personally do and using key questions I adapted from an article in The Guardian. I then applied this to the writing center. Drawing from the various tutoring “hats” outlined in The Bedford Guide for Writing Tutors, participants discussed what they experienced during the theater exercise and how they carry themselves during a tutoring session to create a tutor “character”. We examined the various ways one can play a tutor, exploring how these techniques can be applied universally or be used to cater to specific tutees’ needs.
I also made sure to talk about body language specifically, since it is such a major facet of both acting and tutoring. After a quick discussion about the importance of body language in the center, I then went through basic tips from a Forbes article a tutor could use to foster collaboration in a session, such as leaning in or mirroring body language and gestures. We talked about how we could apply these ideas to tutoring sessions. Finally, we transitioned to another key aspect of both disciplines, and discussed how we can manipulate the rate and volume of our speech, as well as the importance of taking the time to clearly enunciate.
I hope that my participants left the session with a stronger understanding of the implications of their posture, seating position, and vocal tone when tutoring. Hopefully, they will be more aware of how they can use their bodies and voices as instruments to enhance and improve their tutoring strategies to make the writing center a more comfortable, productive environment for all.