Freshman writing coaches worry about value

Older students unwilling to take advice from freshman


Sarah Kluckhohn

If I’m being entirely honest, I became a writing coach this semester to look good on resumes and college applications. I still assumed that by being there I could still help other students with their writing. However, after starting, I realized that was not the case. 

As a freshman at Park,  I have a lot less experience with writing and school in general than most of the other coaches, who are juniors and seniors. Therefore, a lot of the students that come in don’t want my help once they realize my age. They’re not wrong to think that: I myself struggle to see what I bring to the program that other, older students don’t already. I believe I’m a good writer, but that’s subjective. I get good grades in advanced classes, but they’re still freshman classes. I am simply not a better writer than a senior in an AP or IB class. 

In the most recent shift I did, we visited a creative writing class to help with an assignment they were working on. The class was open for sophomores and up, so it felt horribly awkward to ask what they were working on and if they needed any help. I could imagine myself in their position– an eighth grader walking up to me and asking if I needed help. I would be offended, honestly. It would make me feel dumb. Even if I needed help, I wouldn’t want it from someone younger than me. 

Part of the mission statement of the writing coach program is to help students as an equal instead of a teacher. I find it hard to help “as an equal” when there’s a 1-4 chance by grade that the person I’m coaching either knows more than me or is too embarrassed to ask for help from me. 

So, I’m wondering why the position was opened up to freshmen in the first place? I appreciate the opportunity, but I’m unsure of the value we bring to the program at the moment. I don’t know if it’s just my insecurity or the result of assumptions of coaches being based on age, but I don’t like being there just to do nothing. 

I believe there are other options for freshmen– we could help middle schoolers, for example, via Zoom or Google Docs comments. Additionally, we could change the program for freshmen so they sign up and work during Park Connections to help the students in their class. This could ensure they are only helping where they are needed and where they are viewed as equals.