All tutors, no matter their level of experience, run into difficult moments with writers. Certainly, we have all met writers who are:

• angry at their professors • expecting only grammatical assistance • reluctant to make any changes • older than the tutor and not certain of the tutor’s expertise • hoping for a “fix” from a tutor who will do the writer’s work.

Skilled tutors can, of course, adapt to most situations and respond ethically to these and other typical “trouble spots.” The situation is very different for novice tutors. The problems outlined above, while common enough, may not crop up during a novice’s apprenticeship. At our university we train tutors during a semester in which a new tutor might observe a half a dozen tutorials and conduct, under varying levels of supervision, a dozen more. Every year in our program, a few trainees come to me worried about the outcome of a tutorial. Some ethical line may have been crossed, a writer may have left the conference angry or confused, or a professor may have contacted the writing center with a complaint.

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Copyright © 2002 The Writing Lab Newsletter. This article first appeared in The Writing Lab Newsletter 26:6 (2002), 13-16.

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