The Inclusive Tutor: Addressing and Redressing Diversity in the Writing Center

Shiva Mainaly, Writing Consultant

What are the attributes and traits of an inclusive tutor? Why do we need an inclusive tutor?
How does an inclusive tutor differ from a non-inclusive tutor? Why is the question of inclusion so important to writing centers?

These are the questions that have compelled me to ponder.

We have sufficient records that our writing center has been visited by a large number of students year by year. Among those students who have visited our writing center, a considerable number of them are non-American, non-native speakers of English, resident students, visa students, students belonging to 1.5 generation, students on F1 and J 1 status. Some of these students are enrolled in undergraduate classes whereas others are enrolled in graduate level courses. These students embody different socio-cultural, linguistic, historical, and continent specific experiences.

The number of those students having unique cultural differences is on the rise. To provide care, support and guidelines, the writing center has been widening its scope. Since the writing center has already taken constructive steps to include students regardless of caste, creed, convention, color, disability and gender, it has been hailed as the hub where diversity, the differential, and disability are carefully accepted and constructive counseling is given keeping in mind the unique nuance, agency and concern of student writers.

To address constructively all those voices, expectations, dignity, agency and sensibilities of students, writing center needs inclusive tutors. Only inclusive tutors can handle with dignity the longings, concerns and curiosities of student writers. In the present time in which writing centers have been witnessing the flow of students both native and nonnative speakers of English, what writing centers need is inclusive tutors.

By an inclusive tutor, I mean the sort of tutor who demonstrates tremendous patience and a sense of acceptance when it comes to looking into the student drafts. Only those tutors who have the capacity to say ‘yes’ to their own weaknesses, frailties, flaws, feet of clay, shortcoming and limitations can accept the others as they really are. Here I am reminded of what Francis Fukuyama in his book Identity says “the longing to get recognition from others is the universal longing everyone is endowed with. It is this longing for recognition from others that drives us to forge and foment the question of identity”.

Below I have presented some attributes and traits of an inclusive tutor:

• The inclusive tutor does not get stuck on any identity category rooted in caste, creed, convention, color and gender when he or she starts tutoring in writing center.

• An inclusive tutor possesses tremendous power of acceptance. In no way, he or she deviates from the centrality of his or her power of accepting difference in any form.

• Language has the power to influence thought and vice versa. So, the inclusive tutor does not believe in the dichotomy of lower order concern and higher order concern.

• The inclusive tutor is always ready to address any concern of students be it grammar and punctuation or structural chronology of ideas without compromising with the foundational belief that writing center is not a grammar fixing center.

• The inclusive tutor acts in an innovative way. Labels, categories, stereotypes and banal modes of expressions are simply rejected by an inclusive tutor.

• The inclusive tutor knows when and how to switch deftly and smartly from non-directive modes of tutoring to directive modes of tutoring.

• The inclusive tutor believes and acts on the assumption that every student writer is a world in himself or herself. And the tutor navigates this world with consciousness.

• The inclusive tutor is driven by the belief that all forms of literacy are interrelated, supplementary, complementary, correlative, and symbiotically linked. Alphabetic literacy, visual literacy, digital literacy, community literacy, twitteracy etc. are all important in knowledge making process. The inclusive tutor makes use of anything that serves the best goal of tutor and boosts the institutional prestige and standing of writing center.

• An inclusive tutor forcibly believes that after each interaction with student writer, a new self is born in the life of inclusive tutor.

• The inclusive tutor is a mirror on which student writer finds the reflection of his or her own image, face.

• Writing is not a product of solitary endeavor. It is a product of collective efforts. This is the quintessence of inclusive tutoring.

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