By Sarah Geis

Originally published on 8/26/19

You may think writing tutors are just for people who help bad writers, but that’s not quite right.
Anyone can visit Principia writing tutors. Writers of all skill levels, including advanced writers, benefit from interact- ing with the tutors.

Tutors are not there to write for people, nor are they there just to proofread papers. The writing tutor program is a part of Principia’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), the mission of which is to “promote and support academic excellence….” Writing tutors help students to think independently while improving their writing abilities.

A writing tutor’s perspective

“Tutors are trained to help you, with zero judgment. We help you walk through your writing and brainstorm your ideas,” says Brooke Engel, a senior writing tutor from Colorado. Whether you are an advanced writer, a struggling writer, or someone still learning how to write in English, a tutor can help you cultivate your ideas and your inherent God-given abilities of communication and expression, says Engel.

“As a writing tutor, we are taught to bring out what is already there, the good that each writer has. We are helping someone to share their thoughts and ideas more readily with the world.”

To become a tutor, a student must first complete WRIT 350, “Teaching the Writing Process,” taught by writing specialist Ellen Sprague. Writing tutors are trained to offer suggestions about an individual’s writing, explain complicated grammatical rules, and be a sounding board for ideas. They can also share strategies and tools for overcoming common obstacles while researching, writing, and editing papers.

Some of these obstacles could be grammatical mistakes, a lack of organization, or an underdeveloped thesis. The goal is to empower tutees to face writing assignments with confidence.

A tutee’s personal experience

“I would not have survived without [the tutors] freshman year,” chuckles Lessly Amwikato, a sophomore from Kenya. She recommends that everyone visit the writing tutors.

“I’ve learned how to be more direct with my ideas instead
of beating around the bush; the tutors that I have worked with have helped me evolve from my British writing ways … to more implicit and explicit writing ideas.”

Amwikato also emphasizes that “anybody [can] go to the tutors because it does not mean … you’re bad at [writing,] but it makes you become better because you have other perspectives.”

Amwikato says she’s grateful for the ability of the writing tutors “to meet up with your needs, wherever you are” in the writing process – whether you haven’t even started the paper, or you’re frantically working in the library for an 11:59 deadline.

While tutors are trained and capable of working with students and their last-minute deadlines, Engel says, “the earlier you come in, the more we can help. We can still work with you, even if it’s last minute, but it’s better to give us more time to do our job [and less stress for the tutee].”

Amwikato felt that, overall, the writing tutors have helped her to answer her own questions and find solutions to her writing problems on an individual basis. “It’s a resource most students should use … it creates a bond, and a community, and a student-to-student learning environment.”

Where to find the writing tutors

The writing center is located in the library cafe and is open Sun. through Thurs. evenings, 8 to 11.

In addition to hours at the library cafe, tutors are available in the CTL office also located in the library from: 11:50 a.m.-12:50 p.m. and 1 p.m.-2 p.m. Mon. and Wed. 12:00 p.m.-1p.m. Tues., Thur., and Fri.
4:20-5:30 p.m. Mon. – Fri.

Students can also work with Ellen Sprague or Molly Broer in the CTL for further help with their writing and reading abilities.

Writing tutors are also part of the First Year Experience (FYE) programs on campus, working with the FYE professors to assist freshmen with research skills, writing strategies, time management, and clarity in writing.

All student, staff, or faculty members can visit the writing center with any writing-related questions to help improve skills and confidence.

“No matter what level of writing you are at, whether you’re brand new or starting your master’s thesis,” says Engel, “you can always get help and you can always improve.”

Sarah Geis is managing editor of The Pilot and also serves as a writing tutor.