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: we continued our conversation on the sentence.  This secret writing break occurred three more times during our consultation.  Each time I debated whether or not to ask him what he was writing.  I'm hyper-aware of being too teacher-authoritative in the center, so I didn't want to say something that would sound like "ahem, Can you share it with class, please?"  I wanted our session to be productive, but I also didn't want to invade his privacy.  He has the right to write, after all.  But was his writing in the interest of the session?  Is it my job to find out and mediate?  Would you have confronted the issue?  How and when? 


  1. He was probably writing some manifesto against the Writing Center. ;) Just kidding.

    Actually, I might just say (gently): "Is this activity helping you? Have you come up with some stuff that you'd like to share?" And if they act like they'd rather not, you could quickly reassure them that sharing is not necessary.

  2. I think that I'd have a hard time figuring out how to handle this as well. The fact that he was writing his notes 'secretly' seems, to me, to be an indication that he didn't want to share his notes--whatever they may have been.

    Did you feel that the consultation was productive? Were you scrounging for things to discuss with him?

    The only reason that I am asking is because if you two talked about a ton of different things--or even spoke in-depth about a single issue--maybe he was just jotting down reminder notes for later.

    Maybe he was embarrassed because he DID find himself engaged with the material that was being discussed. I've noticed that some student have really odd reactions to sessions--especially good ones.

    I think that some people feel 'embarassed' to come to the Center because that somehow makes them not as good, or as smart, as other students. Of course, that's soooooo not the case, but I think that some individuals do truly believe that.


    Maybe he just thought you were cute, and he didn't want you to see his messy handwriting....

    Either way, I would have asked him about it, unless I was sure that he wanted me too....just me, though.


  3. Correction:

    I would NOT have asked about it...geesh. Proofread already, Alisha!

  4. ooh, I love this. Let's just assume he was inspired.

  5. I figure, from my personal beliefs about consulting, that it is up to the student whether or not they share those things. I can understand why he would be hesitant to show you something. I think that we may give out a sense of dominance inadvertently; it seems to me that it depends on the student whether or not they will see us as such.

    I think that asking to see it may create the idea in his mind that you are checking whether or not he was correct.

    Either way, that would be an awkward situation :S


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