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Friday, October 28, 2005

Hot Topic Friday

Those of your who are familiar with blogs as a genre (or are they a medium?) know that it is common practice to have a topic on fridays that is either some sort of survey of readers or a question to sollicit discussion from readers.

In that grand tradtion, I give you the first ever PeerCentered Hot Topic Friday[TM]! (It is not really TMed, but it looked funny to write that.)

Today's topic: Why don't peer writing tutors participate more in online forums (such as on writingcenters.org/boards) or in places like PeerCentered? Discuss....

Thursday, October 27, 2005

What can you blog about?

There was some discussion a week or so ago on WCENTER about blogging and writing center work. Many people were rightly worried that if we blog and describe specific sessions we have we run the risk of having the student writer encounter the description through a search and, therefore, becoming shocked an demoralized by seeing what has been blogged about them even though it had been done with complete anonymity and careful consideration that telling details would be left out. I would assume that those who are against public blogging of specific sessions don't believe that a peer tutor would openly ridicule a student writer, so it cannot be a fear of mockery that drives their opposition. I still wonder what is to hide about sessions from the people we work with? What would demoralize them so? We do work with fledgling writers and we should be very considerate of their emotional needs and strive to do no harm. Can we ever write publicly about them in an anonymous fashion?
Can we, ethically, ever share our interactions openly?

Note I was going to write about an interesting experience that one of our peer tutors here at SLCC had with a student yesterday that was relevant to another discussion going on WCENTER currently, but thought twice about it upon remembering the previous discussion.

Monday, October 24, 2005

"Spooky sessions at the Writing Center "

Just in time for Hallowe'en, a haunted writing center! Spooky sessions at the Writing Center - The University News - Culture

Victor Villanueva

During Victor Villanueva's keynote address at IWCA, I captured clips of it on my PowerBook. Here is his call to action in wav file format. (Note: I don't have the whole speech recorded and only this clip survived my recording incompetence. I place it here like one would place a quotation: it is only a clip and is acceptable under the principles of fair use.) I believe hearing the speech is important. From it you can better understand the commitment and the passion that Villanueva brings to the subject. His call to action for writing centers is greatly needed.

[Update: after discussion with Beth Boquet, I've decided to pull the clip for now.--Clint]
[Update 2: I've written to Professor Villanueva to ask his permission to use the clip. --Clint]
[Update 3: Professor Villanueva has given his permission to use the clip, so I've put it back up.]

Sunday, October 23, 2005

IWCA 2006 (mostly)

Access was not as reliable as I thought it was going to be, and I kept getting caught up in impromtu meetings. Here are some pictures for your bafflement and/or enjoyment:





Saturday, October 22, 2005

Day one notes

I've been told the folks over at Friends of the Writing Center Journal are saying that I am going to describe sessions. Now is that a gauntlet thrown down or what? Well I suppose that in a blog about Writing Center work one should actually write something as opposed to just posting pictures. So here, I'll give you an impression of several sessions all mashed together from yesterday:


1) Toys
2) Avant-garde
3) Crossing boundaries
4) Discovering boundaries
5) Comfort
6) Eyeing boundaries
7) Setting boundaries
8) Fear
9) Navigating boundaries
10) Navigating white water
11) Comfort & safety
12) Hurting the eyes
13) Exploring boundaries
14) Crayons
15) Canapé
16) Red wine
17) What's all this about comfort?
18) Photos, lots of photos
19) Sushi
20) Where is the discomfort?
21) Mississippi
22) A saxophone in hawk
23) Candyland
24) Spiders (Kidsmoke)
25) Shoulder cramp
26) Discomfort

Make of that list what you will. I suppose one could expect something more discursive. I'll try harder today.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Live from beautiful downtown Minneapolis...

Well my explorations have located several wireless hotspots, so I should be able to post at least on an irregular regular basis. I haven't spotted any WC folks as of yet, but I'm sure that will change as the day goes on.

I mentioned that I will be meeting with other Western writing center directors. We're going to discuss how we can best deal with our massive geographic region (it consists of the left half of the US plus Alaska bits of Canada.) The issue is complex, of course, since it involves IWCA Executive Board membership. As it is, however, the current arrangement is untenable due to the sheer distance that we folks in the West have to travel to even have a simple director's meeting. California and the Pacific Nortwest have already made big moves to reorganize. We had a false start with a reorganization in the Rocky Mountain Region last year. Hopefully we can do something that works within the next few years.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Calling Paul Bunyon, Mary Richards, or Laura Ingalls-Wider.

Of course I left off Sinclair Lewis, F. Scott Fitzgerald or even Prince in my title for my starting entry to the IWCA 2005 Conference here in Minneapolis. I'm just going for a 70s TV vibe, I think (does anyone else remember Disney producing Paul Bunyon stories in the 70s? Maybe it was just my distorted view based on my elementary school teacher showing us Paul Bunyon and Johnny Appleseed movies).

I've arrived a day early to get over to the U of M to do a little research and just visit with some friends I haven't seen in a while, as well as just to give myself a little room to breath from traveling before I start in on all the various meetings planned for the week. After my research time tomorrow, I'm meeting with folks from the West of the USA to figure out what in the heck is up with our vast region.

I haven't really even looked at the program other than for my own sessions. Oy. Well I'll do that tomorrow.

Friday, October 14, 2005

IWCA Conference 2006

I'll be attending & blogging the IWCA conference next week in Minneapolis.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Reflecting on sessions...

I got a very nice compliment from the director of my Writing Center a few weeks ago: He wrote me a lovely e-mail (which I'm considering framing) telling me what a good job I was doing when I wrote up the Conference Reports each tutor fills out at the end of each session; they're sociologically designed to get us thinking about the session we'd just had, and to reflect upon it. And he asked me a very interesting question:

What was going through my head when I was writing each Conference Report?

It took me a couple hours in really thinking about this, because up to this point, I wasn't sure I'd been thinking anything specifically; I was often just trying to remember what I'd done well or badly in that particular session. I wasn't concerned with how I was phrasing my experience. But then I got to thinking about last semester.

Last semester I was inundated with reflection. I was doing so much of it - between my Methods class and tutoring (which my director always highly encouraged us to do, from the moment of being hired), between having to really look at what I was writing and analyze my thinking and rationale about what I felt was everything under the sun - that I was coming to a few realizations about myself that I had been trying not to see. (Or maybe, as I'm nearing 30, I'm finally allowing myself to see.) And I felt that something clicked in my head last semester: I was finally putting together some practical experience in relation to some pedagogical practices that both my director and my Methods professor had been teaching. In essence, a lot fell in to place, and a lot started to make sense. (Especially when I heard the same strategies from both professors!) I was able to see a more direct correlation between what I said and the student's response, and I was able to shift gears much more easily if I saw that something wasn't working.

At the beginning of this semester, my sixth as a tutor, I came in with a different appreciation for tutoring: all this reflecting that I had to do, all that I had to see in terms of my own writing and how my mindset and thinking was so innately connected to how and what I wrote, made me be able to appreciate my tutoring sessions so much more. I now knew from experience how painful reflecting could be, and how writing exposed one's own thinking to the world. Writing for me has always been such a closely tied connection to how I think that I really understand why many people are so protective of their writing. I look to see the way my student responds in the session: her posture, her facial expressions and mannerisms, how close she sits to me, how willing she is to answer questions, how closely she peers over her paper as we read through it together. These clues, as much as anything else, makes me stop to think about how that student, in that one session, feels about her own writing, and makes me really think about what I did in that session, what worked, and what I need to do to become better. I can then process what happened and (I hope) write about the session in such a way that's clear, concise, and readable.

If nothing else, this job is preparing me remarkably for the day that New York State gives me that teaching certification.