(Cover Photo Source: NYU Shanghai Official Account (Bilibili))
Like other support services the university offers, they have high expectations of the ARC fellows, but rarely have the time or interest to know any more about the fellows on whom they depend so much to help improve their assignments.
“As a writing and speaking fellow I work 4 hours a day… we also write client reports to professors after every appointment,” said Fiona Xu, a senior fellow in the ARC.
“In addition to that, all fellows have their unique assignment for Institutional Enrichment Project. I mentor the IMA Learning Assistants, which takes up to 10 hours a week. We also have a scholarship project that takes around 5 hours a week.”
Just like everyone else, the fellows have challenges in their daily work, some of which can be frustrating.
It turns out that GPS (Global Perspective on Society) is a tricky course, not only for students but also for ARC fellows.
In GPS, Chinese students who have never systematically learned about American writing styles are asked to produce a high-quality essay every three weeks based on abstract and profound readings about a wide range of topics.
“I think most fellows will agree that having Writing as Inquiry before GPS would be helpful… I think the idea of writing essays based on a broad range of theoretical texts is important, but at the same time I think that doing it in the very first semester of your college experience is really challenging”, said Fiona.
But the course professors and instructors rarely teach students about writing skills. They mainly focus on the contents and ideas conveyed through the readings. This means the great responsibility of teaching how to transfer ideas into essays falls to the ARC fellows.
In the previous fall semester, 43% of ARC appointments were booked for GPS, followed by PoH (Perspectives on the Humanities) which accounted for 23%.
It is left to the ARC fellows to instruct students in the basic rules of writing, including “what is a claim, what is a thesis statement, and what is a topic sentence” through one-on-one sessions.
Unlike professors who emphasize producing better writing, ARC fellows focus on bringing out better writers. But the thing is, learning how to write is a long process, and writing skills are not achieved within days but rather accumulated through every single writing experience.
Alice Berry, also a senior Global Writing & Speaking fellow, knows a lot about this.
“It is really hard to explain how to do writing, and it’s not something that happens within 45 minutes,” she said.
“I do my best in these 45 minutes but I also recognize that I can only chip away at that just a little bit.”
For students who have high expectations of every tutoring session in the ARC, it may be helpful and reassuring for them to realize that it is necessary for fellows to be patient during the process of helping students to be good writers.
Despite these challenges, however, ARC fellows have rewarding experiences through their work, not the least being their interaction with students.
“It’s a valuable space for me since we are not here to lecture students. It’s not a one-way interaction. I would consider my sessions to be more or less like a partnership”, said Renjie Kan, another senior Global Writing & Speaking fellow.
Alice Berry thinks similarly.
“The thing I like best is working with students on what they are doing and getting to talk with them, getting them to talk about their ideas. And all of a sudden they come up with something and everything seems to come together,” Berry said.
ARC fellows value the communication with students about specific topics, listening to their insights, and the process in which they come up with brilliant ideas through these discussions.
The fellows consider themselves as people who stimulate thoughts through communication, rather than people who revise essays.
It seems, however, though plenty of conversations are happening in these small ARC rooms every day, communication beyond the assignments between students and ARC fellows can be very limited. This creates distance between students and fellows.
An optional survey is available after every tutoring session for students to give feedback to the ARC fellows. It’s sent to the student through email and can be really convenient to fill out.
However, according to data provided by Lead Global Writing & Speaking Fellow Ethan Kostishak, only around 500 feedback forms are received out of 2,600 appointments throughout the semester.
Imagine the lack of feedback and appreciation generated from students in other aspects of their learning.
As students at NYUSH, it would be nice to give more focus to the ARC community and reflect on whether we have shown enough appreciation and understanding to those who have provided great help throughout our college experience.
Maybe, with more feedback exchanged and more appreciation expressed, the distance between ARC fellows and students can be much closer.