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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Any teachers out there?

Hey Peers,

I'm a new member of the Writing Center at Boise State University checking in. I'm an English major with a teaching emphasis and my goal is to teach writing to middle school students. When I applied to work in our university's center I thought it would be a perfect fit--a way of getting some experience.

On our campus we have a class that coincides with our first semester working in the center to help prepare us for the world of writing centers. At first our class covered a lot of theory and history about writing centers and it bummed me out a little. I really wanted to learn about the "right way" to approach writers who need help, not about the evolution of college writing centers. It hasn't been until recently that we've begun to tackle approaches to the actual tutoring process, but I can already see I am going to learn a lot of what I'm looking for.

I have been wondering though, is there anyone out there who teaches and has worked or does currently work in a writing center? What types of experiences or lessons have you found to be valuable? What specific knowledge should I be trying to gain from my class and my working in our center? Your responses would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks
-Ryan

1 comment:

  1. Hi Ryan,

    I started out tutoring as an undergrad, and that convinced me to become a teacher, which I have since become (certified in ELA, grades 7-12, out here in NY). I understand your enthusiasm for wanting learn as many different ways of teaching writing as possible, but I think something you may be missing is that part of learning the history of writing centers comes with learning the associated pedagogy, and that will be extremely helpful to you as you gain experience teaching. Learning how theories of writing have changed do tend to get combined with the historical.

    My first experience in an actual classroom, while I was an undergrad and tutoring (and in a teacher prep program) was with a teacher in the south Bronx, assisting her with 7th grade summer school students. I wasn't really terrified, but I had no idea where to start. The first thing the teacher told me to do was just circulate and talk to students, so I espied a lone boy, plunked myself down, froze for a second...and then all the time I'd spent tutoring came whooshing back to me, and I just slipped into the basic tutoring questions. (Whatcha workin' on? What were you reading? What have you written so far? etc.) The more I tutored, and the more I was exposed to secondary classrooms, the more I realized that having a good idea of how to scaffold the writing process would really serve me well.

    And indeed, when I did my student teaching, I did a really good lesson on writing, thesis statements, etc. If anything, tutoring cemented how to teach the writing process as a whole.

    I don't know how long you've been tutoring, or at what stage you're enrolled in your teacher prep program, but start paying attention to how people respond to writing prompts, which might be better explained in terms of the actual assignment instructions, how students respond and how they begin writing.

    If you have any great urge to delve more deeply into this, let me know and we can find a way to chat. Good luck!

    Cheers,
    Michelle

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