Questions and Problems that Coaches Often Encounter

Q: If there is an awkward silence, should I try to fill it?

A: Not necessarily. Sometimes there are students that won’t open up to you, and that is completely okay. That student may be shy or embarrassed about what they’re working on. If it seems that a student is extremely uncomfortable and that they are not going to say anything, However, if it seems that the student doesn’t want to be there and just wants you to do everything for them, having an awkward silence and waiting it out to get them to talk about their own work can be the best thing for them.


Q: What if a student comes in and says that they want to work on a minor problem with their paper (i.e. grammar) but you see that a much larger problem should be addressed (i.e. clarity)?

A: This one can be tricky, as you don’t necessarily want to undermine the student and tell them that they’re focusing on the wrong thing. However, it is also your job to direct students in the right direction regarding their work. Ultimately you don’t want the student to come to you, have you work with them on an item that they want to work on while you see a different problem that should be addressed, have them receive a poor grade, then come back to you and blame you for not helping them with something that you should have addressed before it was turned in. Sometimes you should flat-out say that you feel that they should focus on another aspect, and if that is done but the student still wants to focus on the original area of focus, the possible blame comes off of you.


Q: Should I try to help students with every little thing in their paper?

A: No. Appointments are only 30 minutes long, and so it is impossible to get through everything in that time. Instead, try to focus on two to three items, and then suggest that students come back after they revise their current work.


Q: What if I work with a graduate student and they look down on me for being an undergraduate student?

A: While this can happen on occasion, most of the time it doesn’t. The best thing to do is to remind yourself that you were hired as a coach, and therefore you must keep reminding yourself that you do know what you’re talking about, and that while you may not know the subject the graduate student is working with, that does not mean that you are incapable of helping them.


Q: What if my sessions give me anxiety and I don’t feel as though I can successfully do my job?

A: Breathe. Taking several deep breaths is one of the best techniques to help ease anxiety. Even though sessions can be horrifying, as time goes on they gradually become easier. You were hired as a coach in this center because the higher-ups saw something in you that would aid the center in an extremely beneficial way. Don’t doubt your worth or your capability of doing your job, as you have resources around you (i.e. other coaches or the graduate student assistants) that are there to help you succeed in having a good session. If the anxiety gets too high you can always ask someone else to take over the session so that you can go to the bathroom or get a drink of water to calm you down. However, if it persists you may want to speak with a graduate student assistant, the Assistant Director, or the Director about your worries and if there is anything you can do to ensure you do the best possible job while you work.


– by Larissa Grundmanis