Wednesday, December 5, 2012

worst shift ever...

I do not exaggerate when I say that I had my three worst ever tutorials yesterday. All right in a row.

The first one was awful because a student came in who had a huge statistical analysis research paper due the next day at 5 p.m. She spoke nothing of the writing in the paper, and wanted me to evaluate the observational study she wanted to do that afternoon. I have a little bit of statistical knowledge, but nothing like what she wanted. Stats 121 was the bane of my existence last semester. I didn't know what to do, and I tried to help her as best I could. Plus, she was an international student from China, and she barely understood half of what I tried to explain. 

She was super stressed out about the paper, and kept saying she didn't get what I meant and that I wasn't understanding her assignment. Huh. Imagine that. I'm a writing tutor, not a stats TA! We didn't read any of her paper, and she wanted me to give her all of the answers for writing her thesis, saying "Write what you would say for me." No. Do you want me to lose my job? Because I don't want to.

Tutorial number two was only awful because of the subject material. The guy was great. He's a Women Studies minor, which surprised me so much that I actually stared at him, thinking it was a joke (there are a lot of good guys at BYU, but I find that many of them have a 'women are second class' mentality, even if they don't come right out and say it -- it's a subconscious cultural thing here). But he was serious. I was excited to work with him, until I read his thesis. It was an analysis of the impact that popular literature has on girls' perceptions of the ideal relationship, using the Twilight novels as the basis for his observations. 

I had to hold back tears the whole time, because I kept seeing myself in the paper. After what happened on Monday night -- I've been a bit of a nervous wreck (as my coworkers and room mate can attest to). His paper was really great because it did an excellent job of pointing out instances of abuse, male dominance, and how victims come to behave. But it was really hard to read -- he noticed and asked if I was okay. I sort of shrugged it off and just said that it all sounded familiar. The look on his face was so kind and compassionate. Worst tutorial ever -- not because of him, but because I could barely hold myself together. Mom said I should have given him my number -- yeah, right. Although he was really cute.

Third the worst. I kid you not, it was the worst tutorial ever. The lady who came in for help was probably in her mid-sixties, and she was the rudest, meanest person I have ever met at BYU. She brought in a 59 page paper and wanted me to do all of the citations for her, in Chicago format. I've never used Chicago before, and no one else in the Center uses it. We all use MLA or APA. When I told her that, she got so upset at me, and started bossing me around and telling me that I was unhelpful. "You don't know this format? Well, are you a writing tutor, or aren't you?" Um...yes. And last time I checked, you aren't, madam. 

After spending ten minutes trying to help with handouts, the Internet, and a manual, she handed me her 59 pages and told me to read it. I'm not supposed to read students' papers without them -- they read them aloud and I follow along. We're also not supposed to read all of long papers -- especially when we have a three hour wait (yep). When I told her those things, she snatched her paper from me and said, very loudly, "So you can't help me." I was so shocked that I just sat there, stuttering that yes, I could help, but that I had to follow the rules. Then she snorted and said, "So. You won't help me."

I was absolutely stunned. Of course I would help her, but I have to follow the policies and procedures of the Center. I even tried to explain to her that I had to be available to help other students, and I pointed at the line out the door. She just glared at me and said, "Will you help me or not?" I didn't know what to do at that point, and because she was older, I couldn't tell her off like I can a student. And so, for 60 minutes, I sat with her while she read her paper, criticizing me for all of my comments and telling me that I didn't get it. Duh, I didn't get it. She wouldn't tell me about the paper, shushing me when I asked her what the assignment was and saying, "I am reading." She wouldn't listen to anything I said, and if I so much as moved in my chair, she'd stop and glare at me, "You're not paying attention. Listen."

Dana and Chloe saved me. They were watching, and I saw out of the corner of my eye that they were just as stunned and unsure as I was. Eventually, Chloe came over and stopped the tutorial, pointing to the line of students needing help. I was so relieved; I'd been trying not to cry the whole time.

Chloe, Dana, and I have now developed a system of signaling each other if something like that ever happens again. Chloe taught us the ASL signs for "help me" and "do you need help." I'm going to memorize that for future semesters.

Good thing today is not yesterday. Just a bit nervous...the lady is coming back today. I swear, if it's my turn to tutor, I'll fake sick or slip Chloe a note to pull the fire alarm at 20 minutes into the tutorial. Not that we'd ever pull the fire alarm. But it is often a muttered sentiment as one of us leaves the table to help particularly infamous writing students. 

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