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Friday, December 10, 2004

There hasn't been a scrap of action on Peer Centered since last Spring. I didn't advertise it that much, so I assume that is part of the problem. I'm kind of rethinking where this is going and whether peer tutors are interested in participating in something like this. In any case, I've changed the design to pep it up, and have instituted blogger.com's commenting system.

Perhaps it would be best to turn PeerCentered into a regulation blog, with commentary/references to other places that reference peer tutoring?

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

It is the week before finals week at MSU, and that means it's wrap up time for the semester for the university and the writing center as well. That doesn't mean that there won't be summer classes, and we won't still provide consulting during the summer. But, it has a different, more relaxed feeling and I'm curious about what consulting will be like in the summer. I'm sure that traffic will be slower, but will consulting be different? Do any of you have experience with "slower traffic seasons" in the writing center? If so, please share.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

I've been thinking a lot about Mary's last post. Ultimately I have to disagree with her because I have and rank advancement though the Writing Center. It is my carreer and my schools seems dedicated to making the position viable. I suppose some schools are not committed to that. Ultimately this is the argument that WC director's posistions should always be faculty positions. I should think, however, that such a person should be hired as WC specialists and be treated fairly in tenure reviews. I know that has not happened in the past for some folks, despite their publishing record etc. I've never seen the WC as a safe haven. On the other had I see it as a somewhat radical place where new ideas about education can be bandied about.

Friday, April 16, 2004

>While I was reading this I suddenly had the (I would say sad) thought that despite all of any WC director's work, people who work there are probably not going to have the commitment level that she or he has since, ultimately, many folks don't work in writing centers as a carreer. It is for them, perhaps, just a weigh station. It is something to do before you get you finish up your work and move on to the real job.<

I'm new to PeerCentered, so I thought I'd begin by responding to this post. My title is English Instructional Skills Specialist for the English Learning Center at Palo Alto College, a position I've held for five years. Yes, that's right, five years. Awfully long time to pause at a "weigh station," don't you think?

I honestly didn't come into this job on my way to something else. I came into this job on my way OUT of something else. I taught high school for three years before I came to the community college. At the end of those three years, I'd had quite enough. I needed a change, so here I am. Initially, I didn't think beyond this position. When I came in the door, I was told that no one stayed here longer than two years. Most went on to obtain their MAs and secure faculty positions. That made sense enough, I suppose. I was in no hurry to do that. This is a comfy gig. I am full-time instructional staff, and I am also a member of the adjunct faculty. I have the best of both worlds. Why change?

After five years, I'm starting to see why. There is no way up or across for me. At this college district, there are no job descriptions that represent a promotion for me or even allow me to transfer laterally. I'm stuck exactly where I am. My only way out is the same way out that everyone before me has taken. Unless I can be content with what I have (which is lovely, don't get me wrong), I will find myself mired in a position that will cap out in salary in my tenth year and will offer me few new challenges once the center is well and truly established, which it should be at that point. My clock is ticking.

Note: I didn't come in the door with MA in hand. I came with a BA, graduate hours, secondary teaching certification, and adult ed experience. So why don't I have the MA and the faculty position yet?

I saw no need to press for the degree until recently. I took a course here, a course there, just to satisfy my own desire for knowledge. I had the career in my pocket, and the college has been quite content with me and my performance. Times are uncertain these days. Budgets are tight, and no one's job is safe. If I get the axe, where do I go?

Back to high school. I was good at that. I really was, but that's not where my heart is. I love the community college, and I'd like to stay. In order to stay, I think I'm going to have to grow, like it or not.

You see, some people DO come to the writing center looking for a career. The problem is that the writing center just isn't a very good career option, not unless this is something you are coming to near retirement. Chances are, you won't be looking to grow, advance. You'll be safe and snug. Writing centers are good at providing safe and snug. Careers, unfortunately, can't really be safe and snug if they are to be truly successful. They must be a little risky, mustn't they?

Friday, April 09, 2004

We had a great training session yesterday. My impression of involvement is assuaged I think.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

I made a vow awhile back to not write about the lack of participation here from peer writing tutors despite my efforts to draw folks in. I have to break that now because I've been bothered recently by, for want of better terms, the dedication to WC work by folks who work in writing centers. I guess these thoughts started when I was reading WCENTER and a conversation about methods to get peer tutors to fill out appropriate (and I would argue essential) report forms. It would seem that some peer tutors were "too busy" with their own school work to take the time to fill out the forms that notify instructors of what went on in an individual session.

The WCENTER conversation then turned towards general commitment levels of WC folks (and in particular graduate students). Chris LeCluyse from UT Austin writes

The thornier issue is how graduate students see themselves in the center, and how they relate the work they do there to their own studies and professional goals. Grad students may overlook writing center procedure simply because they have too many plates spinning as it is, or they may not think that such procedures are important because they don't feel fully invested in the work they do at the center. As a former English grad student, I'm familiar with the initial disorientation of teaching writing and working as a writing consultant ("But wait, I *do* literature!").

While I was reading this I suddenly had the (I would say sad) thought that despite all of any WC director's work, people who work there are probably not going to have the commitment level that she or he has since, ultimately, many folks don't work in writing centers as a carreer. It is for them, perhaps, just a weigh station. It is something to do before you get you finish up your work and move on to the real job.

I suppose, ultimately, one would be expecting far too much for folks who work in writing centers to feel that they can be a part of the development of the field and writing center work. Ultimately that is why PeerCentered never seems to go anywhere.

Nice idea, perhaps. Wrong audience.

Meh--what a depressing post.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

I was in San Antonio for CCCC last week. There were quite a few sessions on the uses of blogs in teaching composition, as well as sessions on, for want of better terms, "blog theory." Quite enjoyable.

It is the harvest of various problems in the WC. I'm having to deal with conflicts all over the place. That seems to happen in the Spring.

Friday, March 05, 2004

We're reaching a fever pitch here again. We are a week before spring break and many papers are coming due. I sense the frustration of those who try to walk in and find that there are no appointments, but all one can do is try to come back later. I know how Beth Young at the University of Central Florida feels.
It is nice to see some action here--even though we haven't inspired much commenting. Comment, folks. Its not that hard!

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Have I taken a risk during a session lately? That is an intriguing question to consider, and as I started to think about risk-taking, in writing and in consulting, I had to think about what that means. To me, it's stepping out of comfortable territory. I think of it this way, because I was trying to recall if I felt I had taken a risk recently. And I have. This is my first semester consulting and I can see myself developing a staid routine. In my mind I follow the same steps, ask similar questions, and make similar comments. Of course each session is individual, and wrapped up in the relationship we as consultants develop with a client, their writing, etc. Despite this, I could see myself getting into a rut. And the problem this has with consulting, is that since all sessions are individual, they should be treated individually. For example, all students have different learning styles, and should be catered to individually. So, I challenged myself. During my last session, when I sensed that my client wasn't grasping my advice in the manner I was relaying it, I tired a different tack. In this case it was use of the "candy" metaphor. This is very different for me, and not a technique I tend to use. And it was successful. I saw my client have an epiphany right before my very eyes. That was exciting. And that is an example of taking a risk during consulting, just trying something new and challenging myself. Has anyone else had a similar experience?
In response to Clint's proposed question:

I don't know that I am the most risk-taking consultant in the history of the world. Maybe it's just because I am still pretty new at the whole consulting thing, but I guess overall I wonder how much I dare to do risky things.

I can think of one solid example, however: Tuesday I had a session with a client who wanted to brainstorm ideas for her argumentative paper. All the prompt said was "find a topic related to women and then make an argument." Not even kidding--it was so vague. We begain brainstorming and the more we started talking, the more information I found myself adding from my personal background. (Necessary background info: I am an English Major and one of my cognates (I like to think of them as mini-minors) is Women's Studies.) I shared some information, statistics, trends, etc. that I've been taught in my classes, and not only did my client appreciate it, I think it really helped her brainstorming.

I'm not saying that my personal background was crucial to the session, or that I imparted some wisdom that will now guide her to a beautiful and thoughtful thesis. Not at all. But I could have just as easily not noted some things I know about women's rights; I could have just let her talk and not helped her out to the maximum. Maybe it's wimpy, but I think it's something like a risk.
I was challenged by Clint's question in regards to the last time a session was a risk for me and/or "really really fun." I honestly cannot recall the last time I took a risk in a session. There are lots of reasons for my non-extreme sport approach to consulting: students associate our help with grades; regardless of whether we consider ourselves experts or not, students certainly expect a certain level of expertise; I worry about my own accountability. I guess I'm wondering how to define risk...what would a consultant's risk look like? The good news is that I can easily recall a time when I had a really really fun session. I had one just today! I worked with 3 lively guys who were all in the throes of personal statement agony. By some circular route we reached a point where we were contrasting personal *statements* with personal *ads.* While it may sound frivolous, we were able to draw some really great comparisons and we are all laughing (lol!) at the end of the session. Would such a non-academic approach be characterized as a risk? HMMMMMM.....

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

A new issue of Praxis is out. Training is the subject, and they happen to mention PeerCentered. Booyah! They do call it, however, "sadly underused." I told you so. Actually I have a feeling that it is going to pick up soon.

Friday, February 13, 2004

"When is the last time you took a risk during a session with a writer? Writers, after all, risk a lot coming to us. What are we risking in return? When is the last time you could characterize a sessino as really, really fun?" --Elizabeth Bouquet, Noise from the Writing Center

I was re-reading Noise last night on the train and came across the above quotation. It is easy to fall into a rut, I guess. Some one is writing that about their training program on WCENTER. I liked Bouquet's book because it was risky in its approach and in its ideas. It challenges, I think, the idea of practice vs. risk taking. In many ways, I see it as an analogy to writing itself. Writing can be stagnant and commonplace, but the interesting stuff takes risks, doesn't it? Bouquet calls prescribed tutoring (and tutoring training for that matter) as low risk/low gain. It is "safe" I guess. High risk/high gain seems better to mean, but I wonder if high risk is not also inevitably paired with high loss. My mind races to a drag race--you may go fast, but if you lose control you crash and burn. Does that apply to high risk tutoring too? I think it may, but is what is gained better? I'm not sure that it is really a loss, since the nature of writing and teaching and teaching writing is about learning from losses and improving.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

I've been trying to stir up interest in the discussion forums over at the IWCA Web Site. The forums offer places for general Writing Center discussion, but my goal is to stir up interest amongst peer tutors and graduate students working in writing centers.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

The new semester has started off quite quickly for us; it has something to do with the increased enrollments. We've also had quite a few compliments lately from all sides--patrons--faculty--administration about our "vital service." I get the sense that "paper tension" is on the rise since there have been a couple of conflicts over the last couple of days. So starts the roller coaster.