Transferability: Gaining the Skills to Compose Your Future

My mother says that I was born reading. I can’t remember a time that I did not know how to read; moreover, I can’t remember a time that I did not love to read. The passion for reading and writing brought me (and I assume the majority of my colleagues) to college, grad school, and teaching. But what most informs my teaching in both literature and composition courses is not my love of reading; rather, it is my brothers’ long disdain for it.

My brothers read the Harry Potter novels like most other children, but they didn’t seek out other books very often. They didn’t hunger for novels the same way I did, but they still had—and have—a strong relationship with the written word. My parents and their teachers helped them to realize the role language plays in shaping their future and providing opportunities. My brothers still do not love writing, but they trust their ability to communicate a message for any audience. When I teach, my primary goal isn’t to foster a passion for reading and writing—I want to help my students develop a confidence in their abilities. That sort of confidence will help them continue reading and writing after the semester’s end, help them accomplish their goals, and help them even—perhaps—develop a passion for language.

The principle which drives my all of coaching as a writing tutor is transferability. The majority of my students will never write a research paper again after they graduate, but each one will always have to communicate in a variety of genres within their chosen profession. I want to prepare my students to accomplish their goals beyond our coaching sessions, and so in each activity, I work to explain how the skills they develop and practice through their work can be transferred in the future.

With each step my students take throughout our time together—every draft, every minor assignment, every revision—I explain how their work is transferable to their future goals. They consequently understand our work together is not just busy work but the development of important skills.

For my students to be able to successfully transfer their skills, they need to first develop as an individual. Not as a small unit in a larger class. Not as a prototype on a conveyor belt. As a human being with a unique set of needs and motivations.

I recognize that each of my students is an individual. Approaching each student and session individually allows me to tailor the material to teach them what is necessary for them to grow. I apply different methods and approaches to help them best understand the materials to become a more effective writer. By incorporating a range of methods, every student begins to gain a sense of independence and control over their own education. Slowly but surely, they become more confident.