Showing posts from 2007

Figuring it out... maybe

As we wrap up the semester, or in my case, as the semester wraps me up, (clearly struggling with a loss of control here) it is interesting to think of how my perspective as a writer and consultant has changed. It’s interesting how, after all of the texts, the theories, the peer discussions that have led to my evolution as a consultant, that the first image of my pedagogy (weird that I legitimately have one now) leads me back to the original Stephen North article, “The Idea of a Writing Center.” Once more the opening paragraphs to his theory, later irreverently dismissed by what I can only perceive to be an increasing disillusionment (man I loathe that second article), illustrates an image of writing as a lonely and frustrating struggle. I realize now, that for many students, writing is a task done in solitude where no conversation, no negotiation occurs—where support lies mostly in an MLA handbook (if they have one). It is from this notion of writing of that I found my pedagogy. I feel

Curing the Writing Disease

Of all the writing center theory we have read, the emphasis we have placed on confronting “fix-it” shop stigmas seem, to me, to be an important task for writing centers. I find myself, in my own pedagogy, addressing the issue and insisting on being a support for my peers, not an authoritative writing know-it-all. So it will be no surprise to you when I disclose my EXTREME frustration with the circumstances of a consultation that completely undermined this notion. When two ESL students arrived for their appointment (they didn’t realize that they were supposed to make two separate appointments) I sat down with them and was given an overview of their assignment. With this overview, the frustration began. Both students whipped out a piece of paper for me to look at and sign from their professor, Dr. I Can’t Believe You Are Allowed To Teach. It was a prescription. A writing prescription. A DOCTOR’S PRESCIRPTION. For what you may ask? A writing disease called word choice. Not only did Dr. I

Merry Luda-crismas

Writing Center Randomness To accurately reflect the caffeine-fueled, anxiety-riddled, psychedelic-Christmas light altered state that is the Writing Center during finals week, I thought I’d post a glimpse into the scattered images and thoughts bouncing off the walls here at Santa’s Workshop, er, I mean the Writing Center. 11:00a.m. My first consultation is going well…I explained what plagiarism is and I think (I thinnnk) I’ve figured out how to cite a Youtube video APA style. This could come in handy for my final paper for English 596. 11:34a.m. That peppermint mocha from Starbucks is hitting the bloodstream. Woooo! My mind is filled with rooty-toot-toots and rummy-tum-tums. 12:10 p.m. My next consultee is running late. Mike offers me a random ham sandwich. It comes in a brown paper sack, complete with an apple, a bag of potato chips, plus little packets of mayo and mustard, which are cuter than cute. I feast on the repast later, not knowing where it really came from. It is delicio

end of the semester thoughts

it's been a long and, at times, daunting semester. To see how far i've come as a consultant in the past fifteen weeks, is a little bit surprising , and yet exciting as well. At the beginning of the semester i found myself overwhelmed with "the ideal session." We had read many essays all claiming to have the one and only way to conduct a proper session. However, with each article i read, i found that i never fully agreed with every word in it. There was always bits from this one or a snatch from that one or s packle a speck of wisdom from the one over there. But never did i find that one fully encompassed how to conduct the perfect consultation. While conducting sessions, i constantly found myself worrying if i was breaking one of the rules that North had laid out. I was terrified i was dictating papers and not guiding them. I found myself questioning every word that came out of my mouth, in fear that i was going to be punished by the great Deity of the w

Consultants as Chefs

You know, we have been discussing the similarities to brothels and writing centers for awhile now, and it seems that it has become quite the topic of argument. I personally enjoyed seeing the possible relationship that could be created, and got a kick out of trying to find things to either reinforce the relationship, or tear it down. For the sake of all those in grave disagreement with the prostitute and brothel analogy, I thought I would throw another option I have been thinking on a little out there. Now, don’t kill me. I haven’t been thinking this through for long, so it may be extremely easy to shoot the relationship down, but it seemed like it might allow for some engaging thought. What other things could you relate the work we do as consultants to? I jumped on the idea as consultants being likened to chefs. A consultant could be thought of as a chef because chefs are used in various instances. If you prefer the term “cook” to “chef,” fine, I believe the relationship to be t

Trusting Other Writers

I was also reasonably unwilling to visit the Writing Center, just as Sarah M., because, while I would have placed a great deal more trust in them than those in my classes during peer-editing sessions, I was always concerned that they would have their own agenda and not tend to the needs I wanted them to tend to. I also recognized that they were only human and may very possibly give me the wrong advise. Working in the Writing Center, and with my peers in 303, has been very helpful for me. I am now more than willing to visit the Writing Center because I know how beneficial it really is. I also understand that while, yes, consultants are only human, so am I (funny how that works seeing as I personally fit in both categories.) The thing is, with work in the Writing Center, consultants can be trusted to have a certain amount of knowledge, and to also be willing to admit when they would prefer to hit the reference books. I think this is such an excellent thing. I think more than any pr

Who's in Control?

This semester, I took a linguistics course called the Politics of Language. On the last day of class, the instructor split us into small groups and prompted us to think about how language is political. The overlying idea of my group was that the political-ness of language lies in the idea of power. As our discussion progressed, we began talking about writing, and the strict parameters set forth by high school instructors. I found myself tying the conversation to the Writing Center, because my last consultation for the semester ended with a conversation between me and the student I was working with about this very thing. She expressed the difficulty she had in college writing because those strict guidelines were not there. So, going back to the linguistics conversation, this came into play. But that was where it turned interesting. One of the other students in my group asked an interesting question. He said something along the lines of, "Isn't the Writing Center ess

My First Time as a Consultee

I have a confession to make. I used to be afraid to visit the writing center. In fact, until I became a consultant, I'd never been. I was pretty sure that consultants used some sort of mind tricks or something, and that there were indeed "right" answers to the questions asked . . . though I'd have to guess at them. I was afraid that the paper they'd tell me to write wouldn't be the paper I wanted to write. I think I was still trying to find my voice then, over-protective of my writing and too easily influenced by outside sources. Which I guess tells me that, as a consultant, I shouldn't play mind tricks by being vague, yet I should refrain from telling people what to do. On to my experience--I was having a hard time getting a paper written, so I made an appointment. My trepidation over the paper overrode my fear of being a consultee. I found myself babbling anxiously, and asking "Does this make sense?" (Although I certainly didn't bo

Unexpected ESL

I’ve come to appreciate ESL students on a rather selfish level. Yes, I recognize that the nonnative speaker undergoes significant hardship in learning the language and academic norms. But I have latched onto something in ESL tutorial sessions that makes my job as a consultant not only more fun, but also more challenging. You see, in my experience, ESL students know more about the mechanics of English grammar than do native speakers. This undoubtedly comes from studying the complicated language on such a small scale, whereas native speakers take their grammar for granted. Anyway, to get to the point, the very last consultation I had this semester was with an older lady who was from somewhere in the Ukraine. I found this out quickly because her paper was an ethnography on the Bolshevik republics before and after the dissolution of the Soviet union. It was such a complicated topic and the paper was nearly 20 pages long. The sentence structure in the paper was incredibly complicated

Improvisation: Students Driving the Consultation

It is interesting what a schedule does to me. How seeing time slots next to my name colored grey instills a kind of confidence boost (whether it occurs out of hope or optimism I am still too confused to differentiate). The difference, to a greater extent, however, is having actual consultations with peers. Even the dynamics of class has changed because of it with the addition of personal experience to our learning process. It is always an interesting step to move from the 2-D world of helpful manuals and essays to “real life,” moving from discussing the possibilities of improvisation to a place that demands it for survival. I think now of a consultation I had a few days ago (how weird to say that!). A writer came in with a Health Science assignment, an opinion piece about whether health care is a commodity or a right. When I initially asked him what it was that we were going to work on, he made a statement I have come to recognize, “Editing and stuff.” I asked if there was anything s

Event More Deep Thoughts From Cassie

Today, I did my first e-mail consultation in the writing center. It was a little bit tougher than I thought. I remember doing one in the writing center class, but I guess that was easier, because I could take it home, think it over, and then write a response. But in the center, I only had 1 hour blocked off to read the paper, think about it, and then write a response. It took me longer than an hour. I’m not saying an hour is not long enough; I’m saying that I’m slow, probably because it was my first, real e-mail consultation. But it got me thinking about e-mail consultations, and how different they are from the other work I do at the writing center. At first, when e-mail consultations were introduced to me, I kind of liked them more than other consultations, because I could sit down, and write a really thoughtful response, and then the student could actually have something to take home with them, instead of going off a few notes or off of memory. But, then, after doing a real e-mail

More Deep Thoughts From Cassie

Today I had a pretty cool consultation, because I helped someone that didn’t get the right kind of help the last time she was in the writing center. Of course, that’s unfortunate that she didn’t get help the last time she was in the center—and I’m not blaming any consultants for that; consultations really are a two-way-road. Consultants can help as much as they can, but writers need to know what they need help with, and then take something out of the consultations. The first time she came in, I don’t think it sounded like she knew what she needed help with—hence, her coming back. But, anyway, it felt awesome to really help someone and know it. She came to get help revising some movie reviews she’d written. It was kind of a unique consultation for a couple of reasons. One, I don’t get to help people with reviews very often. Two, this consultation didn’t go in the same “routine” as most of my other consultations do. A typical “routine” would be reading the who

Deep Thoughts From Cassie

From Cassie. So, this is my first entry in my blog. I’m getting a late start, but better late than never, right? So far, this semester has been a real adventure in the writing center. I remember my first day—I had no idea what I was supposed to do. I was scared of consultations (even if I was just sitting in, of course). But I quickly got used to consultations, and threw away my shy-and-scared set of mind. The one thing I did feel confident about when I started was a consultation with an ELL student, but I didn’t get one right away. In fact, I just had my first a little over a month ago. I think the only reason I felt so confident was because I’ve had experience working with ELL students at the International Programs Office on campus (where I work), but at the office, I never worked with their writing with them. It was more difficult than I thought. The first appointment I had with an ELL student was very grammar-and-punctuation oriented. I tried my best to

Us (as consultants)/Them (as consultants)

I think it’s funny how often we say “us/we (as consultants)” or “me (as a consultant)” in writing about writing center work. Anyways, I (as a consultant) have discovered something that we (as consultants) may not focus on in our routine of working with writers. As I continue to work with students from all over the University, I feel as though the identity of the actual consultant becomes more and more blurred. Am I consulting or is the student consulting? Of course, in traditional terms, I am the consultant. I am the professional who studied in a theory course to sit with a student and…well…consult. But, to risk sounding cliché, what defines a consultant? Is it the theory course? The good looks? The awesome nametag? According to the dictionary (did you ever notice that it is always “the dictionary,” and never “a dictionary?” I just realized that. I digress…) a consultant is considered a professional offering expert advice. I think the word “advice” is why we chose to call ourselves c

Disinterest vs. The Tutor Who Cares

I’m working on developing my pedagogy for the final portfolio and have stalled. There is a certain notion I have about the tutor/writing relationship that runs contrary to the consensus of most other tutors: I think a tutor must distance himself from the writer. In workshop, I heard many classmates say that intrinsic to their pedagogy is developing a relationship with the writer. Scott Russell, in his essay “Clients Who Frequent Madame Barnett’s Emporium,” writes that “Tutors learn to distance themselves from emotional elements of the work” and that defenses we develop are “blanking out, retaining physical boundaries, keeping time down, hiding the self,” etc. Russell sees these maneuvers as negative qualities since it inhibits the tutor and prevents any sort of relationship from developing. I can understand that sentiments behind wanting to develop a trusting relationship with a writer. Writing is, by its nature, an intimate and personal activity that few people wish to share wit

Good ol'-fashioned medical metaphor

The Writing Center is a real, tangible place (or so I hear), and yet the temptation to examine it in terms of metaphors—its metaphorical space, if you will—is darn near irresistible. One such descriptive metaphor that has fascinated (and irked) many is the idea of the Writing Center as a “lab.” This particular metaphor has found itself in the crosshairs of those who bristle at the thought of the Writing Center as a space in which diagnoses are made and problems are fixed. Certainly there is something distinctly unpleasant about the “fix-it” association, but I am convinced that the medical metaphor did not emerge from the labeling of the Writing Center as a lab. Oh, no. The medical metaphor was created (and is still reinforced) by the actions of the Writing Center consultants that occur in the first two minutes of when a consultee enters the room. Before the session begins, two important questions are asked the writer: 1. “Do you have an appointment?” and 2. “Have you been in before

invasion of privacy?

Hi, everyone!  I had a weird consulting experience yesterday that left me with questions pertaining to the invasiveness of the work we do.  I had a consultation with a writer yesterday who was working on revising an essay.  He was very quiet and seemed somewhat lost, without any goals of what he hoped to accomplish.  (Signs that perhaps he had been forced into the center, I suppose).  We read through parts of his essay, and decided to work on issues of sentence structure.  I slid a pencil and notepad his way, so we could try out some choices for his sentences specifically.  He hid the notepad from my view and started writing furiously.  After about two minutes he looked back up, but he still seemed to be actively hiding the notepad.   Was he embarrassed about the notes he had taken?  Had he been writing something that didn't pertain to our conversation at all?  Would either of these things have been any of my business?  I didn't ask him what he wrote and he didn't tell me:

Prewriting Research

I have some questions that (if you respond) may help me with an I-Search paper I am writing for a writing consultancy class. Do respond. What do you do before writing? What types of prewriting do you use after you have written drafts? Have you ever visited a writing center? If you had to help someone with prewriting, how would you go about it? What are some good research areas for prewriting? What are some good web sites on prewriting? Thanks!

Establishing Rapport

How do you initially build rapport in your sessions? For my final paper, I wish to explore this question and would appreciate any input. For writers, areas of weakness can be difficult to expose. We have only a brief time to work with a writer, and often delve into some sensitive areas or deep topics during these sessions. How do we create a comfortable environment for our writers and establish rapport with them (through our language and behavior)? In "Asking the Right Questions: A Heuristic for Tutors" The Writing Center Journal . [9.1 (1988): 28-35], Evelyn Ashton-Jones asks: "What are the students actions telling me about his or her attitude? . . . How is the student perceiving me? What kinds of messages am I unconsciously sending? . . . How can I put the student at ease? Establish rapport? Set the stage for this session?" What are some answers to these questions? Some ways I think we build rapport: By greeting writers immediately when they enter our c

They Work Hard for the Money

For some reason--don’t ask me why--we were in our Theory and Practice of Tutoring Writing class and the topic of prostitution came up. Yeah. I know. Well, our professor Mike, in his pedagogical awesomeness, found an essay in The Writing Center Journal on how writing center tutors were analogous to prostitutes. Yeah. I know. The essay, by Scott Russell, titled “Clients Who Frequent Madam Barnett’s Emporium,” actually managed to be a lot more thought-provoking than the actual jokey metaphor suggested. Sure, there are some obvious problems with this comparison. Both professions have their differences. One involves working with students to facilitate better writing. One involves sexual intercourse. I’m just sayin’. Probably the most interesting (and most disturbing) aspect of this essay is the section that organizes different types of “clients” (we call them writers over here) into categories that are reminiscent of certain client types that might pay for sex. I’m a little uncomfort

Background Noise

I was looking back through “Noise from the Writing Center,” one of the first books that we read this semester. I found myself drawn in once again to the amusing (amusing because it didn’t happen to me) story about how Dr. Boquet received a note from a colleague complaining about the rather distracting noise coming from the writing center on a Sunday night. The colleague’s point of contention was that it was discourteous for the people in the writing center to produce such a “racket.” Dr. Boquet eloquently (and defiantly) responds, making the point (among others) that the noise was a productive noise, and not the noise of party-goers. Reading along, I found myself completely sympathetic to the plight of Dr. Boquet. Once again, creative types—the writers—were being picked on by the oppressive forces of the powerful academic elite. I considered pumping my fist in solidarity at Boquet’s righteous retort. Of course, when I read this book, I had clocked in, oh, about ZERO hours in our Writi

Your thoughts on ESL students

I was wondering if I could get some feedback for my final project/paper. I am writing about ESL students and the ideas of authority and appropriation and something very interesting was brought to my attention by Gail Schuck . As we all know, most ESL students come into the Center asking for help with grammar, and as the dutiful consultants we are in wanting to help the student with their request we focus our limited time on grammar issues; however, a problem arises because often times grammar is not the overlying problem. These students that come in asking for help with "grammar" are using this term as an overview for other things they would like to work on, in particular conciseness of ideas, clarity, and working the paper into "American" conventions. What I would like to know (and this kind of goes along with Dale's post) are the following things: If you as a tutor follow the collaborative guidelines and do as the student asks and focus only on grammar or do

Me as Reflexive Pronoun

I had a student come in the other day and ask specifically for grammar help. He even made it a point to say, “I am really happy with the organization of my paper. I just want to work on grammar issues.” He seemed to know the center’s MO before we began, and wanted nothing to do with it. “Okay,” I thought, “that’s fine.” Grammar isn’t my favorite thing to do in the center, for reasons I’m sure many of you are aware of. I find it not only tedious, but also not in the student’s best interest. Focusing on a paper through the “grammar lens” leaves many things that I find more important up in the air. So anyway, there we are looking at only grammar in his paper. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this particular student had a problem with comma splices and run-on sentences. Actually, it was pretty bad. Every-other sentence would be a paragraph long. I explained to the student just what a comma splice was, and how easy it is usually to correct. This was after reading just t

No time!

Now that we have been at the writing center for a few months (new BSU consultants), we have more or less picked up a routine. I come in for an hour and a half on Tuesday and Wednesday, and others come in during their scheduled times. We meet with writers, discuss their writing or their thoughts, and then we move on to the next student. My question in this post has more to do with basic operation of the center and less to do with student-writer relationships. That is question is simple—how do the consultants that work long hours (I am thinking more than three) keep their wits about them? I realize that some consultants may be used to reading paper after paper and discussing it with the students, but I find it very difficult at times to sit down, read a paper, discuss it, work with the rest of my appointments, and then go off to the rest of the day. Sometimes I get the same feeling from three half-hour consultations that I do from reading half a novel in one day. My eyes hurt, my head h

The Writing Center as Home

I’m aware something as obvious as this post will get muted reaction, but I’ve been feeling the need, for sometime, to espouse some thoughts I’ve had since my first day of employment in the Writing Center. Here is the first: I love the Writing Center. I do. And by this I mean I love the material presence of the Center (besides the obvious legitimate benefits of working in the space). I feel so comfortable among the pseudo-cubicles and bookshelves stacked with reference books. I appreciate fully the nuance of our floor lamps, softening the harsh buzz of the few fluorescent lights in the space. The sofa, although sinking with wear in the middle, offers a snug sanctuary away from the bitterness of plastic computers and wooden desks. Although I have been indifferent to the stuffed parrot that sits atop the paint-peeling coat rack next to the sofa, I like knowing that little avian friend is there if I need him. The toys in the little cabinet to the side make me laugh, especially when

Praxis CFP for Spring 2008

Here is the call for papers from Praxis : CFP: Spring 2008 Issue of Praxis – Authority and Cooperation Praxis: A Writing Center Journal welcomes submissions for its Spring 2008 issue. Although we welcome essays on a wide range of topics related to writing centers, we especially encourage submissions on this issue’s theme: Authority and Cooperation. Many writing centers try to create a collaborative space free from the hierarchies of knowledge and power that characterize the classroom and the university in general; yet difficult issues concerning authority and hierarchy inevitably develop in individual writing consultations and in the larger physical and institutional space of the writing center. We invite contributors to interpret the theme of Authority and Cooperation broadly; however, some possible applications include ¨ Directive/Non-directive approaches to consultations ¨ Undergraduates consulting undergraduates ¨ Using writing manuals/style gui

Tutoring Session Recording & Reflecting

I'm in my first semester as a grad student, tutoring at both an on-campus Writing Center and a more general learning center at Long Island University in New York. One of the classes in which I am enrolled is Individual and Small Group Writing Instruction, in which we read various texts pertaining to tutoring, discuss different pedagogies and accepted practices, and discuss tutoring. One of the big projects for the semester has been to record a tutoring session (which I finally managed to do this past Thursday after trying for nearly a month!), transcribing the session (my project for yesterday), and then to write a reflective piece about it - all in the name of becoming a better tutor, of course. I was very lucky insofar that I spent three years as a writing center tutor as an undergrad; my then-director was a bit advocate of self-reflection, and I found it easy to implement. However, this is my first in-depth self-reflective analytical study. Admittedly, at this point, I have on

ESL student's need more time...

I just finished Jane Cogie's "ESL Studend Participation in Writing Center Sessions" form the Writing Center Journal and something she wrote really struck me. She made a point that ESL student's need more time to process infomation in order to learn. That tutors need to be patient with ESL students so that they can actively participate in their learning. I completely agree with this - the problem is that with 30 min or 1 hour sessions we often have barely enough time to cover one issue they want to discuss. Last week an ESL student came in who had worked with another tutor a day or so before. The tutor had only had enough time to go through a little more than one page of the students assignment. The student asked me in our session to help her find areas to expand her paper. We spent the entire hour working on this and then when we were just about out of time, she asked about the grammar issues. Of course, we didn't have enough time to work anything else so

The Gentleman Experience

Well, I had an experience today that’s been botherin’ me a bit—in fact, it’s nearly one in the morning, and I’m up because I realized that my feelers are hurt and, consequently, my mind’s run amuck on me. Today a gentleman (I’m using the term very loosely here) came into the Center looking for his paper. He spoke with a light accent, and it was apparent to me that he’s an ELL student. I was sitting at the front computer, and he walked up to me and said, "I’m here to pick up my paper." This statement struck me as a bit strange, because students don’t generally drop-off their papers—my mind instantly registered "email consultation." When I asked him if he’d sent in his paper via email, he looked a bit perturbed and again stated, "I’m here to pick up my paper." I thought that maybe he’d forgotten it at the Center or something, so I asked him if he’d already worked with a consultant on the paper. This question must have really irritated him, because he took a

New issue of Praxis

I've just had a moment to glance over the new issue of Praxis . It looks good. More later.

The Stinky Center

I would like to address something we are bound to rarely come across in the literature: In what manner is a consultant to deal with a student’s halitosis? What about an impermeable membrane of body odor? Is it, at any time, appropriate to say to a student, “excuse me, but I believe you may have stepped in dog dung”? And if the answer comes back, “no, I haven’t,” how does one recover form such an offensive misstep? All joking aside, this is something we don’t discuss. This offensive matter cannot be relegated to the realm of “take a deep breath and start again” (this strategy will invariably make the situation worse). A student’s “aura” so to speak is far beyond the topic of misappropriation, far from the context of colonialism, feminism, or any ism within the center. Some will accuse me of insensitivity. But it is the oversensitivity of my olfactory that helps bring this issue to smell. Who among you hasn’t pondered a similar topic? Have you not had a consultation with the fo

No, I thank you...

I haven't posted for a while, so I thought that I'd better contribute. Actually, what inspired this particular post was my youngest son; he's an eight year old third grader (he's cute as heck, too). He came home from school today with a short informative story about the Tewa Tribe called "Dancing Rainbows," and his assignment calls for him to read this story and then create a short summary of it, so he can share it with the rest of his reading group this up-coming Friday. Sounds like a simple task right? Umm , no...reading has always been difficult for my son, and stories full of words like "Pueblo," "San Juan," "Comanche," and "ancestors" really, really. really frustrate him. Anyway, we did make it through the story, and, as I was wringing the last of his tears from its pages, I realized that reading that story was the easiest part. Actually, writing the summary will, no doubt, prove even more difficult for him. In lie

Appropriation, Not so fast...

I had a consultation with an ELL student today who was very bright. She had a draft prepared and obviously knew what she wanted to say in her paper. The problem was not in her knowledge, it was in her lack of vocabularly and confusion on how to use articles. I have been researching appropriation for my end of term paper and have come to believe that when it comes to ELL students what was commonly thought of approporiation is not always so clear cut. As far as this student was concerned, her ideas were clear - I knew what she was trying to say, as I am sure would her teacher, but a clearer meaning could be reached by sharing some American knowledge. Sometimes I simply said that I thought a "the" or "a" was needed, other times I asked her, and other times (towards the end of our consultation) she figured it out on her own. This was also the case with certain vocabularly she used that was repeated throughout the paper, it wasn't that the word she chose was wr

Writing Consultancy Projects and Links

Dear Friends, I just joined this cool blogsite, so I have not read through all of the past posts yet. I am in a class for becoming a peer writing consultant at the University of Kansas. I am currently doing a project on online writing and tutoring, with extended topics of collaborative writing and collaborative work of all types. [removed] and [removed] are two sites I have set up for this project. I would love to have you all share your thoughts on any of the discussion questions or posts I have made on these sites. If you want to edit the wiki, you can e-mail me at [removed] and I shall give you the password. I need help making it more collaborative by gathering outside feedback. Also, starting this week, I am going to be working on an I-Search paper--I am considering discussing the marketing of writing centers, the current mindsets of university members towards them, what has worked and what has not in increasing the number of students that come in, etc. If you have thought

“How I Write” celebrates five years - The Stanford Daily Online

The Hume Writing Center at Stanford has an interesting project: “How I Write” conversations interview faculty members, graduate students, journalists and visiting writers on their personal writing processes. There are two or three such events each quarter. “We want to discover the wildly idiosyncratic way of people’s writing,” Obenzinger said of the series." ( “How I Write” celebrates five years - The Stanford Daily Online ) It would cool to conduct such a project but expand it out to all students, not just faculty, graduate students, journalists, or visiting writers. I'd particularly like to see peer tutors added to the mix. Perhaps this would be a good podcast episode?

Season 2 of the PeerCentered Podcast

We are kicking off PeerCentered Podcast 2.0 with a recording of a presentation by peer tutors from the University of Maine. It was recorded at last weekend's National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing (NCPTW) held at Penn State. Give it a listen! If you are interested in creating a podcast episode, contact me at

the dual roles of teaching and consulting

I have been tutoring in writing centers for a couple of years, but this semester for the first time I am also teaching an English 101 class. I know that this is a situation a lot of English grad. students find themselves in, and wonder if anyone else has any reflections on this--I feel a little bit like I have a bizarre split personality. When I teach I try to look teacherly by wearing blazers and turtlenecks (because physically I look about age 12) and when I tutor I wear jeans and a hoodie. I knew that I responded differently to writing in these two situations but didn't realize how big the split was until yesterday, when I realized that a student from my Eng 101 class had scheduled a consultation with me. I hadn't told my students they were forbidden from conferencing with me in the writing center--I don't want them to be in any way dissuaded from using the center--but I hadn't prepared myself for actually consulting with them. He was working on a paper for his

Assumptions... those nasty assumptions

I have been known to make some assumptions in my day. Sometimes these are well thought out assumpitions that prove to be true and sometimes they are just fly by the seat of my pants, all too often wrong assumptions. I experienced one of the wrong assumptions on Thursday in my second consultation wtih a student I wil call "Beth" who is of an older generation (what we often call a non-traditional student). Beth came into the writing center the first time with a health sciences paper in hand, she had booked an hours so we took our time going through the paper, with my explaining APA citations as we went along (a particular concern of hers). In the paper she had stated some facts and cited the reference. I assumed since the information was not in quotations that she had in fact summarized the points and was citing them appropriately. The paper was fairly well written with just minor grammatical errors and errors in APA citations. This past Thursday however, after Beth revea

Has it been that long?

Last week during a class visit, a student asked how many consultations I'd done. I told him that I had no idea, but that I was starting my fifth semester and had worked over two summers. The question bugged me. After doing some research, I found how many sessions I'd done: Today I had my 500th consultation. I'm not really sure if that means anything, but for all of those sessions, I've never regretted working in the center. I've never heard other consultants complain about work. And I can't believe I've been doing this so long.

Sensitive Topics

This blog relates exactly to that of Sarah M., who posted a few days ago. I have consulted with this “Bob” she speaks of twice, he actually mistakenly scheduled with Sarah the week before last. His work was actually creative non-fiction, which was more bothersome to me than it would have been had it been creative fiction. I have been struggling with these consultations since the first one occurred. I have not been sure how to take them, but I too, was pleased with how they occurred in the end. I have talked with Mike about these consultations on several occasions, and he is kind enough to make himself available in the Writing Center whenever Bob comes in, should I feel need to bring him into the consultation. The extremely sexual nature of his work can be rather bothersome. During the course of the consultations I have engaged in with him, I have felt perfectly fine, being able to distance myself from the content of the text and focus on the formatting, but I have also found myse

Cheers to Boise State!

Cheers to Boise State! , originally uploaded by Student Writing Center . I want to extend thanks to all the Boise State folks who've been blogging about their writing center experiences. Cheers!

My "Scribe" experience

I had a consultation straight out of a "What not to do while tutoring" manual this week. I walked into the center's waiting room sunshiney after a pleasant and rewarding global revision consultation and immediately became confused. Another consultant had helpfully given a file to who I thought was my next appointment. I waited for her to fill it out, and then walked with her to a small consultation table. After a long stint where she took off her shoe and scratched her foot she informed me that "Bob" would be coming in a half-hour, he was sorry that he couldn't make it. (It was a 60 minute session) I looked at the file and saw that it was, in fact, Bob's file. I asked if they were collaborating on a paper together, and she told me no, she was Bob's scribe, we should probably get started on going over the paper to make sure that it flowed smoothly and didn't have the words "it" and "but" in it. I was a bit taken aback, pr

Are you really willing to take on any writing challenge?

Here I am posting about a non-event. I had a productive consultation. BUT. We've talked about the possibility of encountering writers that are working on pieces that have viewpoints strongly opposed to our own, or writers that are developing skills that seem beyond our areas of expertise. I think I'm willing to take on any writing challenge. But I did encounter one that I hadn't anticipated. The consultee, lets call him "Bob", warned me before our session began that his creative fiction piece was of a sexual nature and examined a social taboo. He asked if I would still be comfortable discussing his story with him, and was prepared to leave. I think this is when my retail customer service persona kicked in, and I thoughtlessly agreed as if I was, of course, totally glad to be of assistance. Then I proceeded to get myself in deeper. We discussed how we were going to proceed and he left it up to me. So I told him that we usually read things aloud, and asked him what