This scenario--in which the tutor navigates through both the tutee's writing and the emotions he or she brings to the session, and the absent professor's instructions and feedback--is illustrative of many tutors' daily experiences.
To better understand the multifaceted relationships involved in tutoring, we presented "The Absent Professor: The Presence of the Professor in the Tutorial Session," an interactive session for the 2010 CIT Teaching for Transformation Conference.
We viewed "The Absent Professor" as an opportunity to learn, from the tutee's perspective, what contributes to a successful tutorial involving the student, tutor, and the absent professor.
As we navigate through these different tasks, we are not only working with the student, but also the absent professor.
Professor Pat Harris, a last-minute substitute for the absent Professor
Josh Slater, spoke of the need for "fast, accurate and non-invasive" diagnostic tests to help control outbreaks.
Although Natalie describes an extreme situation, it brings into sharp focus the specter of the absent professor. At Millsaps College, a small, private liberal arts college in Jackson, Mississippi, our writing center is staffed by and serves undergraduate students who often have difficulty imagining their primary audience: the professor.
Because face-to-face conversations with students present an immediate challenge, the specter of absent professor often raises questions about authority that remain vague for peer tutor and writer alike.
As we reflected on the various situations we encounter in our writing center, we identified four common scenarios in which the absent professor becomes significant and looked for ways to understand and respond effectively to student writers.
In the stories that emerged on our small campus, we identified five distinctive situations in which the absent professor plays a significant role.
A-8; Ron Grossman and Charles LeRoux, "Absent Professor
Scholar 2-Times 2 Universities," Chicago Tribune, 29 January 1993, p.
"The Absent Professor: Rethinking Collaboration in Tutorial Sessions," co-authored by Arianne Baker, Kristi Girdharry, Meghan Hancock, Rebecca Katz, Meesh McCarthy, Jesse Priest, and Megan Turilli--all tutors at the Reading, Writing, and Study Strategies Center at UMass Boston--involves a different encounter with students over the text, not only of student writings, but of the syllabi, margin commentaries, and expectations of professors who are physically absent in the conversation, but very much present as far as the nature and goals of the assignment are concerned.
Conversely, when we recognize that the absent professor's comments could serve as an anchor, tethering our student to her or his task, we may steer our tutee back to the assignment or an instructor's comments to move him or her forward in the writing process.