I always go all-out for in-class peer-reviews. Why? Partially because it comes naturally now, but also because it’s the same type of feedback I’d like to receive in return. I’m the girl who pulls out 3 different colored highlighters and 5 colored pens for peer-review. I’ll write all over your paper with suggestions, comments, and edits. Generally, my classmates and professors appreciate this. However, sometimes I feel like it might be setting me up for a tricky situation.

Let me explain. The other day, a classmate of mine messaged me on Facebook asking for help with a paper. Usually, if it’s a close friend, I’ll say yes. If it’s just an acquaintance asking, I usually direct them to send an e-mail to set up an appointment with me. In this situation, there were two problems. The first, was that the student asked for proofreading, something we explicitly DO NOT do as writing tutors. I usually handle this dilemma by explaining that proofreading is a lower-order concern and listing off higher-order concerns that I would be happy to work on. The second, was that this was a paper that the instructor explicitly decided not to do a peer-review on because it was meant to be an entirely independent paper. I was frankly a little shocked to be asked to help proofread that paper.

I freaked out a little bit because of the potential Academic Integrity Violation and the need to maintain positive social standing with a classmate. I asked my boss and other coworkers what to do. I decided to tell the classmate that I was too busy that week, but I’d be happy to set up an appointment with another tutor. They quickly backed out and said they’d be fine on their own. Crisis averted! Well, not really…

A few weeks later, the same classmate emails me asking for help on yet another paper! Luckily, this was a class that we did not share and it was for an issue I felt entirely comfortable helping with. However, there was never any mention of payment or any compensation. I think they assumed I would help from the goodness of my heart? And normally, I would, but I’m busy and this is a job I get paid to do and we were not friends. I didn’t have any easy back-outs this time so I frantically searched online for ways to respond when someone asks you to work for free (the internet is a great resource!). I found an excellent Muse article and modified their advice for my situation. My response went something along the lines of “Thanks, I’m flattered! We can set up an appointment if you’d like but I also do some freelancing if that’s more convenient!” and ended with a relevant link to the problem she was asking for help with.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any tried-and-true techniques for dealing with someone asking for your tutoring services for free. My attempts to research peer tutoring ethics in this regard fell short. However, I know people get asked to do paid work for free all the time. What have you been asked to do for free and how did you handle it? Comment below! I wanna hear your stories and tips!

(By the way, if you DO want to hire me as a tutor for proofreading, grammar, writing, or more, check out my tutor profile!)



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