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Thursday, October 31, 2002

Hi Neal,

Your wrote, "But isn't it sorta unfortunate that the medium itself makes us have to try that much harder?" I couldn't agree more.

More later,

Liz

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

In response to Clint's message about "paperlessness" on October 22nd, I am one of those students who emails their pepers rather than turn in a paper copy! I think it's great, since I can send it as soon as I finish it, rather than print it out and leave it on the printer or the coffee table when I leave for class. As far as physical writing centers and how this will affect our work therein, I can see a future of tutors sequestered in cubicles, each with it's own computer; physical tutoring will be so uncommon that it will actually take place in the lounge instead of the cubes where we now work. Good or bad? It's really anyone's guess.
Hi, all and thanks to Clint for getting things up and blogging. I'm Neal Lerner, and I've logged on to this site because I'm currently not in a writing center (either directing or tutoring), and I miss it! So I thought I'd get some vicarious thrills by reading about your experiences and contributing my occasional two cents. What I am currently doing is working in a WAC program at MIT; I teach a course on writing in biology and work with students in a management course who are writing a required paper (this is all part of MIT's new Communications-Intensive course requirement).

At any rate, I just finished responding to lots of those management papers, and it really reminded me of on-line tutoring. I had little context for what students were writing, the assignment was vague, and my sole means of interactions was through written feedback on the students' texts. It wasn't particularly satisfying (and, yes, I did invite each and every one of them to meet me face-to-face. No takers so far). If this is the future of writing-center work, I'm frightened! I agree with Liz that ideally in an on-line environment we try and figure out ways to "engage students in an online discussion about their work" (those are Liz's words). But isn't it sorta unfortunate that the medium itself makes us have to try that much harder? And is it "empowerment" for student writers if they can control the interaction in ways that we don't think makes for particularly productive tutoring?

Just a few questions that bug me on this partly cloudy day in Cambridge, MA.

See you,

Neal

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Hello Again,

Andrea, we've had the same experience at DePaul, and I agree it is especially challenging to work online with a student who does not seem to understand the assignment. We work online with entire classes, in one of our services, which enables us to have access to a copy of the assignment handout. We ask students to use a form on our web site to send us their drafts, which includes a field where they must explain their assignment. Although these explanations can be too abbreviated or otherwise unhelpful, when those students are part of the online class link-up, we can compare the students' versions with the instructor's handout (an interesting exercise in compare-contrast, sometimes!).

I think one of our next sets of challenges is to find ways to engage students in an online discussion about their work. Like their in-person counterparts, online "clients" often wait until the last minute to contact us, so an online discussion might be impossible (we don't have a MOO or other synchronous program). One idea I have is to talk about our online services in more detail when we do our informational "we are the writing center" presentations to classes. In fact, as we begin work on resurrecting our in-class and out-of-class workshops (we haven't offered them for several years now), we might build a few minutes into the workshop to talk about how best to get help online.

Abigail, since you asked for advice for publicizing your workshops at Truman State, perhaps you might include something about how to get help in-person and online *after* the workshop has ended, and you could add a word or two about that topic in the brochures or flyers you post and/or send to faculty. We stopped offering workshops at DePaul some years ago because the demand grew too large for us to handle, but those were in-class workshops marketed especially to First-Year Writing classes and core writing classes offered in DePaul's School for New Learning (a separate college whose students are 25+ yrs old). We stopped offering free-standing workshops because of low turnout, but we might try them again and market them more aggressively. I think one of the key ingredients for success is matching student needs with the time of the term and the location & time of day (perhaps you could survey your first-year comp faculty & classes about frequently-asked questions). I'll let you know what we end up trying.

Derek at Houston, we have slow times, too, and it can be difficult to predict when those times might be. DePaul is a commuter school (only 20% of our students live on campus) and most students work at least part time, so we stopped offering late evening hours. However, if you have the same core group of students coming to see you, you might have the makings of a great little community, which might grow larger as your students spread the word. Some of our very best students maintain regular appointments, and you even might discover that one or two or yours might make great tutors next year. Of course, things might pick up near the end of your quarter or semester, as daytime appointment slots fill up.

Faith, I can't remember when I first heard the phrase "pause for the cause," but I think I picked it up from a former colleague years and years ago when I worked in the Development office for the YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago. An interesting experience.

Happy Halloween all,

Liz
DePaul University

Monday, October 28, 2002

October 28, 2002
Today, (at the Weber State University Writing Center) I did several "onlines" (corrected papers sent by E-mail). Many of the students were writing papers about civil disobedience, but they did not seem to understand what it really is. Many of the examples the students gave were of violent ways to solve a problem. It can be particularly difficult to help students with online papers, who do not seem to understand their own assignments. As tutors, we understand the assignment even less than they do. We are not in the class, and we are not able to talk to the tutees in person. However, in this case, since we had several students submitting papers from the same class and for the same assignment, I got a general view about what was expected of each student.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

I've been thinking a lot lately about "paperlessness." In the long run, it would seem that student writers are going to be submitting their writing for their classes electronically instead of the traditional paper route. In the classes I teach, a good percentage of the students do this already. In all I think we as writing center folk need to be ready for such work, and equip ourselves to be able to respond to it. While I think the physical writing center will always exist, I think that even it will change as physical artifacts disappear.

Friday, October 18, 2002

I love the "let's pause for the cause" phrase. You'll have to tell me where you got that, Liz.

Anyway, I think "shut up and listen" is one of the better pieces of advice that I've received too. In fact, a couple of tutors from DePaul's Writing Center were talking about how long we're supposed to shut up and listen in our sessions. We read an article by Muriel Harris that suggests a 15-second rule, but we all agreed that 15 seconds really wasn't long enough. I've found that if I wait a little longer, I'm often rewarded by a surprisingly insightful or dead-on response from my student, and I think waiting for those moments are worth it. They build that student's confidence in her ability to come up with the answer herself.

-- Faith
Hi,
I thought I would throw out a question as well. At Truman State University Writing Center I am on the planning commitee and we recently decided to do workshops on topics such as Grammar & Mechanics, Turabian style, etc. We are having a slow time getting off the ground and I was wondering if anyone has suggestions for aspects such as how to publicize the workshops, how often to hold them (1 a week? 2? 3?) and other related information. If anyone has more experience with workshops I would appreciate the info.
Thanks,
Abigail

Thursday, October 17, 2002

I just wrapped up an unbearably slow week at the University of Houston Writing Center - but I did manage to get caught up on all of my assignments! I work M-Th in the evenings, so I can't really speak for the midday tutors, but my shift has been very quiet as of late. However, I have noticed that the same faces keep showing up each week to work on new assignments; I find this very encouraging because it shows a willingness and desire for improvement on the part of these students. It also shows, I think, that our efforts are valued by the student body (or at least by a select portion of the student body).
Hello All,

I'm Liz Coughlin, assistant director of DePaul University's Writing Centers (hi Faith). I look foward to being a part of this community. Thank you, Clint, for setting it up. The "best advice" that you cite for Faith is one I'd second. Those "Let's pause for the cause" moments are often the most productive, and they're worth reaching for. I'm afraid I have to sign off now -- I have way too many meetings these days -- but will look in on our blog and post something again as soon as I can.

Liz

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Hello,
My name is Andrea Carter, and I am a new blogger from Weber State University. This is my second year working at the writing center. I am a history teaching major and English teaching minor at WSU. I look forward to joining your group.
--Andrea
We had a communal meeting between the Student Writing Center consultants and the Community Writing Center Writing Assistants. The Community Writing Center is one of SLCC's outreach programs. It is basically designed for all out-of-school adults. Although one-to-one writing consultations is a part of their service, they deal mostly with things like workshops etc. In any case the one-to-one service has started to pick up down there.

The topic was "Help." In the discussion the folks explored what is too much and too little help. I tried to keep quiet during the meeting in order to let others talk. (As you might guess I am big into fostering peer tutor/consultant voices.) The discussion was healthy and honest, I think, and I think folks came away having learned a great deal about their practice. In all the meeting was pretty productive, and it is good to see that the Community Writing Center folks are still on the same page as us eventhough they deal with a vastly different audience.

Saturday, October 12, 2002

A big howdy to all the new bloggerians. The most valuable piece of advice about tutoring I've received? Duck and cover! OK just kidding, but I couldn't resist being a smart alek. I have to think back to when I was a quasi-peer tutor (I was working in a WC as a grad student), and the best bit of advice came from a student I was working with. I was talking a lot to the student and she said "Hang on a second. I need to think about this." What it boils down to is knowing when to shut up and let some write.

Friday, October 11, 2002

I thought I might toss a question out to the list and see if we could get a conversation going. This is my first quarter as a tutor at DePaul University's Writing Center in Chicago, so I'm still a bit of a neophyte, but I'm eager to pick up new tips and tricks to use in my sessions. In that spirit, what's the most valuable piece of advice about tutuoring that you've received?

-- Faith
I too work at Weber State University, but I am not nearly as pretty or perky as Jen. :) My name is Melissa and I am an English major and an Asian Studies minor. This is my second year as a tutor, and I really enjoy the work. I hope to apply the things I am learning here to the things I do in the future. Unfortunately, I don't know what those things will be yet, but I'm sure they'll be good. I am working on a project this year that facillitates writing groups on campus. Does anyone have any ideas of how I can get more people interested in joining extra-curricular writing groups?
Hey,
I am a tutor at the writing center at Weber State University. I am a graduating English major with an emphasis in technical writing. My minor is dance. This is my second year tutoring. My favorite part about tutoring is working with someone who is willing to think about my suggestions and maybe actually throw some of them out. I love it when the students think for themselves.
--Jen

Thursday, October 10, 2002

Hello Everybody,
I thought I'd take a stab at introductions as well. I am a writing consultant at the Truman State University Writing Center, one of about 14 (I think). I am a graduating senior with English major (creative writing emphasis) and una concentracion menor de Espanol. This is my third semester as a consultant. I think this will be a fun way to finish off my experience at the Center.
--Abigail
Hello Bloggers,
This is just a brief message to introduce myself. I am the Undergraduate Tutor coordinator for the Purdue University Writing Lab. Currently, I'm a junior studying English Education. In the lab, I work with six other undergrads, tutoring primarily freshmen in introductory composition courses. This is my second year of tutoring, and I'm always looking for new ideas and strategies. I'm looking forward to learning more about tutoring from all of you. -Anne : )

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

Sounds like a plan, but I think I might have to invite them first. Just have them email me.
Hi Bloggers, We're just two weeks into our school year with a mostly new staff of writing assistants. I'd like to offer them the opportunity to blog with us. May I just post the invitation you all sent me to our bulletin board site, or is there a better way to get folks signed up?
All is quiet on the writing center front.

Monday, October 07, 2002

We are lucky enough to get a fall break at my College. I think it was well-needed since the consultants were being overrun with writers. I could see the pressure getting to them. Right now, while equally busy, it seems that people are more relaxed.

I know I am. I spent the 4 days wandering the wilds. A highlight was finally finding Smithon's Spiral Jetty. For those unfamiliar with grand-scale earthworks, the Spiral Jetty is out in the hinterland of Utah on the Great Salt Lake. It has been covered in water nearly since it was completed in 1971 (Smithson died not long after in a plane crash), and this is the first time it has broken the water level. The quiet and the serene order of something primordial was amazing out there. I come back to the Center--centered.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

I'll take a second to shoot a quick introduction out now. I'm Derek Brown, a first-time peer tutor at the University of Houston-Downtown. I expect to receive a B.S. in Professional Writing this December, then it's off to grad school for me. I'm working in the Writing Center to fulfill an internship requirement for my degree program and I am enjoying myself immensely thus far. Although we are only five weeks into the semester, I've already noticed a general deficiency with subject-verb agreements and thesis sentence construction from my peers. I'm amazed at the consistency with which these problems appear in the writing of first- and second-year students.

Final note: as part of my internship requirement, I am keeping a journal of my experiences in the Writing Center. from time to time I may choose to post one of these brief entries for your review. Who knows, you might even get a kick out of some of my stories!