GEORGE was a really committed student—never missed a class, always turned in assignments on time, read almost all assigned readings (even taking notes on them in some situations), got to know each of his professors early in the semester, and never fell behind.  In short, he was intelligent and orderly, a professor’s delight!

When George became a tutor, he learned that not everyone operates as he does.  Some tutees come to tutoring sessions without having read the chapter, so they have no questions to ask; some come without doing the problems, so it is difficult to figure out where they should spend the most time and energy; most have never dared to talk with their professor—except to get the required signature on the tutor request.  But worst of all (for George) was DANNY, because Danny didn’t always show up.

The first week Danny was to be tutored, he forgot.  He had received the email telling him who his tutor would be and when to meet.  He had even read it, but he didn’t write down the date and time anywhere.  So when George showed up at the SAS office to tutor Danny at 11:30 on Thursday, there was no one to tutor.  George was discouraged, because he had already met with PROFESSOR MORRIS, Danny’s professor, about the syllabus, and he was pretty fired up; he had tried to anticipate what some of the questions Danny might have and what questions he might ask Danny. When it became apparent that Danny was a no-show, George went to the library and hoped it would be better the next week. 

The following Thursday at 11:20, George again showed up at the SAS office.  He figured he should be there plenty early so as not to miss Danny and to get started early if possible, because he knew there was a test coming up.  Once more—no Danny. 

George decided to call Danny over the weekend.  When George reached him, Danny asked if they could meet Monday night to prepare for the mid-term, and George agreed to fit it into his schedule.  The problem was, the mid-term was scheduled for Monday.  So Danny went to the department office Monday morning, the day of the test, and asked GLORIA, the department secretary, if she would explain to Professor Morris that he hadn’t been able to meet with his tutor and ask if he could take the test the next day.  The secretary said Danny should put that in writing and put it in the professor’s mailbox, but said she was sure it wouldn’t be a problem and that he should stop in to see Professor Morris as soon as possible to find out when he could take the test.

When Danny arrived at Professor Morris’s office later that day, Professor Morris reminded Danny of his policy: If a student misses a test for any reason, it counts as a zero until it is made up, and the only make-up time is on reading recess day at the end of the semester.

When Danny took the second and only test prior to the final (and the make-up), he failed it, partly due to lacking the experience of taking a first test.  By that time he felt it was all so hopeless that he dropped the course.

* * * * *

Whose responsibility is it that Danny dropped the course?  Give a number to each person listed below in order of responsibility, with 1 being the most responsible and 4 being the least responsible.  Be prepared to explain your choices:

                        _____  Professor Morris          _____  George, the tutor

                        _____  Danny, the student      _____  Gloria, the department secretary

Diving Deeper: Is there someone not mentioned in the story who may also bear responsibility for this situation?  Who?  How?

–Janice Heerspink, Tutor Coordinator and Academic Counselor, Calvin College, MI

Comments from the author:

This is the 20th consecutive September that I have done tutor training, and it’s difficult to be fresh.  One of the complicating factors is that I involve new and returning tutors in the same meeting, and although the returning people have lots of good experiences, they don’t always contribute, or if they do, they act a bit superior.  I think sometimes they don’t contribute because they don’t want to be perceived as putting themselves above others.  And sometimes it’s because they have forgotten a lot since they last tutored in early May.  After taking the On Course Workshop this past summer, I wrote a case study that I used at my opening tutor training this semester.

The small group discussions about the case study were very active and involved, and the big group arguments were interesting.  Best of all, the case study allowed us to talk about policies and procedures without my lecturing about them.  I have the benefit of hiring 90% of my tutors in the spring, so before they leave for summer I get their summer addresses. I then mail them a tutor handbook in August and ask them to read it.  I tell them that they may put an hour of reading time on their first time sheet IF they spend at least an hour really reading it.  So…ideally they have read the policies and such, but this case study gave them a chance to think of how the policies really work. I’m so glad I learned this technique at the workshop.  It takes so much of the talking, preaching, giving of rules off me.

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