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.