Don't Get Me Started on... Awkward Tutorials

Tutorials, deemed so unimportant by the English department that they only take place twice a term in third year, are usually a complete waste of time. You rock up for an hour of stunted and unenlightening discussion on texts that the majority of people present haven’t read and then you leave, feeling drained and frustrated. Despite jotting a few notes down, a mere fraction of the information you would have gained upon spending an hour reading in the library or searching online, the biggest skill you leave with is the ability to avoid eye contact and look like you’re thinking about the question in hand that everyone refuses to answer.

Even more annoying is when people have actually read the texts up for discussion: the reading list consisting of about five poems which would take a maximum of ten minutes to scan through, and yet there is still a room full of silence and awkward tension. The tutor asks a question previously sent to all students, thus giving plenty of time to think of an answer no matter how simple or unoriginal, and no one volunteers the ideas that they must surely have floating around at the forefront of their minds. Despairingly, the tutor then resorts to an even easier line of interrogation: “What did everyone think of the poems?” Still no answer. Every student sits mute, looking at the ground or pretending to read their often-imaginary notes, just relying on time to pass swiftly or a mysterious disaster to befall and immediately terminate the meeting. Even more desperately, the tutor then insists that they are no longer seeking an intellectual answer, merely a score out of ten will suffice. And still silence resounds around the room. Don’t get me wrong, I know what it’s like to have been so bogged down with other work that there’s only time for a quick SparkNotes or Shmoop session before turning up to the tutorial, supposedly full of information and opinions which these easy cheats only partially provide. Or, on the other hand, you did technically have time to read Thomas Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy but you just couldn’t face it, knowing full well that you’d never write on it in essays or the exam. However, when the reading is generously light or even interesting, or when you were the person sitting speechless and relying on everyone else last time, there really is no excuse not to make a slight effort and volunteer a basic opinion on the text in question, especially when you can just make it up. Surely a very basic and unremarkable comment is better than a room bursting with awkwardness as the embarrassingly long wait for an answer becomes even longer: a tumbleweed moment if ever there was one.