In my first semester of tutoring, I have seen papers about forestry services, Rihanna as an emblem of dominance, the nutritional chemistry of an English muffin, NASA funding, and the endangered Peruvian vicugna. I have worked with students writing genres like persuasive research essays, personal narratives, lab reports, and even philosophy short-answer midterm responses. When confronted with papers that have requirements or subjects where I am far from an expert, I have learned to ask, “Why did you select this topic?” and “How would you want your audience to be changed by reading your paper?” These questions function to alleviate demands on inexpert tutors, but, more importantly, they guide students to understand their own intentions. Peer writing tutors should be guides for students as they develop their own ideas and writing. Through my own years of middle school and high school, my mom would often pose the classic writing question, “So what?” after reading my papers. I dreaded the question until I understood that writing was a medium for changing the world. Writing is a small way of relating to another person, sharing an idea, expressing an opinion, and ultimately helping someone else feel and think about something the way you describe it. By showing interest in students’ writing, tutors create a forum for understanding what writing can do to influence the world.
Gummersall, Cassidy, "So What?: Writing and Tutoring Intentionally" (2017). Tutor's Column. Paper 15.