Showing posts from October, 2007

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

Place on the totem pole

I haven't posted before now, because frankly, I was trying to sort through the consultations I have had and figure out what I can do to become a better tutor. My first consultation was two weeks ago with a business student who was using the COBE style manual. I had never heard of it before this consultation, and because of my lack of knowledge, I let the whole consultation slip away from me. Instead of asking the student how he wanted to structure the session, I dove into the manual and started right away with citation (which took me nearly the entire session). In the last few minutes, I asked if there were other problems. He pointed out his last two paragraphs, which had no logical connection to each other. I gave him a few suggestions on transitions, but I kept thinking, if his whole paper was like this, I just did him a huge disservice. This consultation made me really question myself and whether I was ready to take on this responsibility. If I couldn't even help an Engl
Today some of the BSU students watched a video from Oregon State University concerning international students and their interaction with our very own, native, English language. I found that it was a particularly thought provoking movie, especially in the sense that we, as native English speakers and writers, tend to take our rhetoric to the writing centers where we consult and chat about papers. Just last week I was discussing an essay for a teaching position with a Spanish-speaking student who wanted to become a Spanish teacher in the United States. I found all sorts of mistakes and tripped over myself when trying to rush into all the things that he could fix, work on, or show improvement in. I feel as though I can justify my consultation because his audience was probably a set of teachers who wanted to see things done in an academic manner. But in the end, who is the writer? Who is the applicant? Who is behind the pen that the committee wants to see? I think about this as I, myself

This just in

"Susan M. Dinitz, senior lecturer in English and coordinator of UVM’s Writing Center, has won the 2007 Ron Maxwell Award for Distinguished Leadership in Promoting the Collaborative Learning Practices of Peer Tutors in Writing. The award will be presented at the 24th annual National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing (NCPTW) on Oct. 20, hosted this year by Penn State University." ( University Communications : University of Vermont ) Congratulations to Susan. I hope to record an interview with her at the upcoming NCPTW conference at Penn State.