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Preventing Tutor Fatigue November 8, 2011

We’ve all had it happen.  You’ve had four face-to-face appointments so far today, your eyes hurt from staring at your computer screen, and in walks your next writer.  You want to give them your best and help them with this paper, but it feels like your head is going to explode if you have to explain the difference between a passive and active verb again.  You bite back a groan and get up to meet them.  You forget why you’re tutoring and just want to go home and take a nap.  Like I said, it happens to the best of us: tutor fatigue.

As a new tutor who works for five hours straight on Sundays, I’ve had this happen to me a lot lately. Students, for obvious reasons, like to come in with last minute projects on Sunday night and my appointment schedule fills up quickly.  It isn’t the writer’s fault that I’ve had a long day and I help them as best I can, even if I’m craving some sleep.  But how can you prevent tutor fatigue?  Here’s a few easy tips.

1.  Take frequent breaks.

And I don’t mean blog-surfing breaks.  Continuing to read random articles on Wikipedia or watch funny Youtube videos isn’t going to reinvigorate your brain.  Instead, get up and walk around periodically.  Chat with your fellow tutors, grab a cup of water, or just lie down on that sofa in McGaw for a bit and rest your eyes.  There’s no shame in being worn out, and you need to be ready for that next appointment.  If you don’t feel like you can give it your all, go take a break and prepare.  We all have at least a few minutes of down time during the day – make the most of them.  Sometimes staring at a computer screen is all it takes to strain your eyes and mind, so close down that laptop for a while and relax.

2. Come prepared (and caffeinated).

If you feel tutor fatigue coming on, grab a coffee before your next appointment.  A lot of writers won’t mind if you have a drink while talking to them, and it may even make them feel more comfortable that you’re not treating the appointment like a formal occasion (or worse, a class lecture).  Encourage the writer to grab some water or coffee too – just don’t spill on their work!

3. Focus on the appointment (and the writer) at hand.

Sure, you may have three written feedbacks to look at after this, but those writers aren’t here in front of you, right now.  This one is.  Make your current appointment your priority and resist thinking about what’s coming up for the rest of the day.  Tell those appointments, wait your turn!  There’s plenty of time to worry about them later.

In short, remember why you’re at the Writing Center.  You’re a tutor and you’ve worked hard to become the sort of person who can help struggling writers.  Your writers expect you to be a valuable resource and a friend, so keep sharp and give them what they came for.


One Response to “Preventing Tutor Fatigue”

  1. David S. Says:

    One thing that has powered me through fully booked days is the immersion factor that comes from getting involved with each client. For me, each client, paper or conversation is an adventure. I could never predict the unique experience each client brings. The people are individually fascinating and beautiful, and the papers/conversations can be anything under the sun. Also, each person has their way of entering into the conversation — some shy, some businesslike, and some like a football player trotting onto the field. Some are dead serious, some sparkle. When fatigued, I hope for a client, paper or conversation that will consume my attention and make me forget everything else — and ninety nine times out of a hundred, that’s what I get.

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