The Remote Writing Coach

Working with high school students as an English writing coach has many joys but also some difficulties. While the joys are many and can range from seeing your tutees follow your advice and do well on an assignment to seeing them grow as writers, the challenges on the other hand can be multifarious. However, being remote writing coach has its own particular set of difficulties. The most obvious of these difficulties are of course those imposed by the very technologies that make remote coaching possible.

In my case I was working with high school students through emails. They would send me a draft via a shared document and I would make suggestions and comments on the document itself. This type of work had its advantages but also its disadvantages. One such obvious disadvantage was the inability to talk directly with my tutees in order to see how they were formulating their ideas and attempting to put those ideas on paper. For as McAndrew and Reigstad mention in their book Tutoring Writing: A Practical Guide for Conferences one of the principal duties of the tutor of to “draw out the writer’s clarity.” Often when working side by side with tutees this involved allowing the tutee to explain to me in simple language they wanted to get across on paper. This allowed me to follow ideas and consequently organize those ideas into a cohesive structure. Working via email prevented from having these very important conversations with my tutees which then resulted multiple annotations to their paper asking them to explain to me the point that they were trying to get across when the made X or Y assertion.

The other big challenge with working remotely was the ability to respond immediately to my tutees. As McAndrew and Reigstad mention, it is of outmost importance that a tutor respond to tutees in a timely manner. Although I always tried to respond to my tutees within a period of twenty four hours, often this time allotment was not good enough for my tutees where submitting pieces of writing due the very next day. That is, even if I responded that same night my tutees where at times unable to make the structural changes needed to their texts before submitting them for grading. In order to overcome this obstacle I encouraged my tutees to submit their drafts to me as soon as possible. Sometimes this worked but often time the communication was also hampered by technological difficulties such as faulty links or a lack of notification throughout the email system.

Lastly, the other difficulty in tutoring remotely that I would like to address is the inability to create full rapport with your tutees due to the physical remoteness and lag of time in between each email. This is a small point, but it is my belief that learning/teaching methods are always better when conducted in person. The personal relationship of trust between student and tutor and important to the learning process. As many experts have noted there are many more benefits to in person learning that cannot be fully met by the online experience. As an article in Psychology Today states, some of these benefits of in person learning can have positive effects for a student’s metal health, and their academic achievement. People can rave all they want about remote learning but computers will never take the place of in person, one to one mentorships.