At one point, I started to receive referrals for thesis tutor services from outside the organisations I work for. Although the process is similar, when I am working on my own I am fully responsible for the service. There is no one I can fall back to or hide behind if things go south.
There Is Always A Way
When people contact me outside their usual channels, it usually means they are really panicking. There are times when students’ emotional coping strategies fail them. There are times they meet a supervisor who instead of helping them confuses them. There are others where the organisations either don’t pay the supervisor enough, or they are completely disorganised.
When I get these referrals, I tend to be both excited and anxious at the same time. I get excited as these would be super motivated students whom I do my best work with. I am anxious because they usually are in such emotional uncertainty that I have to tread carefully as trust can easily be broken. My role here is not just as a supervisor but to help them pick up the pieces and feel confident again.
Confidence Is Key
There was a student who went to her assigned supervisor with an idea and she came out more confused then when she came in. As her idea was a touchy subject, the supervisor changed her idea upside down. This made the student feel that her idea was not good enough and that she could not rely on her intuition.
As she was telling me her story, I could notice how insecure she was. On one hand, she was motivated to do the work and on the other, the twisted idea was losing her motivation. In these cases first I let the student share their story, without interrupting. Here I give space to them to unload their frustrations and bottled up emotions. This on its own is priceless for students.
Magic Happens When 2 or More People Put Their Minds To It
When she got the anger out of her system, I asked her if I could ask some questions. Here I started my process. I always start the sessions ask students to share what they have in mind, irrespective of the thesis. Unless I am clear what topic they are seeking and what is the motivation that is driving them, I keep asking till I find out.
When she got to what excited her, the insecurity about the topic came to light. She knew that her tutor was right. Because of this, she assumed that her idea was wrong. I started helping her with finding creative ways to use her touchy subject and present it in a way that is more acceptable.
What remains with me till this day is how her faced changed when she could see a way of achieving her original intention and still meet what is required. I remember leaving her sitting at a restaurant sipping on her wine with a smile of relief and enjoyment. There is great power when a student gets their inspiration validated. There is even greater joy when a person recognises their own worth.