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Thursday, April 28, 2005

STRATA in the Center

I’m stealing my idea for my blog from a fellow Learning Assistant(LA) in my writing center because she raised an interesting discussion that has been on my mind all week (thanks Shelly!). She posted an online blurb about STRATA students, a term I’d never heard before yesterday. STRATA is one of those lovely acronyms that stands for STudents Returning After Time Away (from school). These are nontraditional students who are returning to school after being away for five or more years. Often these students are still working part time, may have families, and going to school. Whew! That seems to be a lot of pressure and juggling to me.

My experience so far with STRATA students has been very positive. Often when I begin conferencing with these students I’m initially intimidated (since they’re older than me- I wonder if I really can give them valid feedback). It’s just the notion that wisdom is in age and it somehow intimidates me in the beginning. Most of the students are eager to get back into school but are often apprehensive about getting back into writing. Particularly, most STRATA students come in with grammar fears, citing woes and are worried about meeting the expectations of their professors. Like one LA pointed out, sometimes a session with a STRATA student can feel more like a “therapy session” once you’re through. Often with these students once we get through talking about their LOC’s they are more than ready to dive into talking about ideas in their paper. I’ve had some of my most interesting conversations with these types of students, and sometimes the conversations are more geared towards being back in school, dealing with life pressures and having a balance than about their paper. It is because of those added pressures that STRATA students have, that I wonder what writing centers can do to help them outside of conferencing (or holding therapy) with them.

Most writing centers pedagogies strive to be all inclusive and diverse- but what about the diversity of ages? Do we take time in our writing center classes and training to discuss how to work with writers of differing ages? I wonder if STRATA students could benefit from more specific resources tailored to their needs. One LA is collecting data about this but I wondered if this topic has been addressed at other schools and if there are any tactics to dealing with STRATA students or resources. It all comes down to the fact that, STRATA, ESL, ELL, LD, any student, or LA at the conference table- we’re all just people trying to better our writing but I’m curious to see if there’s been any research done about STRATA students and about making their transition easier back into school through the writing center. If you have any ideas or experiences- please share!

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