Thursday, January 31, 2008

more on familiarity

Following Alisha's post, I wanted to bring up a couple more points on familiarity. As I settle into the center (I'm settling a bit uncomfortably since I just spilled a full water bottle all over my lap) and refamiliarize myself with the goings-on of the composition support community, I'm also watching visiting writers tentatively settle back into writing mode. A few appointments are appearing on the online scheduler, a few faces are peeping around the corner and taking bookmarks, and one student in particular came in, asked if I liked his haircut, and started making coffee. He was certainly a character--all people return to patterns in different ways, I suppose. After he made his coffee, he asked if I would work with him on his writing. It was a graded English 102 paper from last semester. Why was he bringing it into the center? Maybe he was putting me through some kind of assessment to see if I was the right tutor for him. I don't know...I do know that classes are cancelled tonight due to the snow, so I'm going to settle into my pajamas and refamiliarize myself with hot chocolate.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Returning to Something Familiar

Well, a spankin' new semester has managed to wriggle itself around my time, all my time, and I'm sure that it's managed to find everyone at BSU and Peercentered, too. Although a bit overwhelmed with my current class schedule, I find that I am very excited about escaping into the warmth of writing center. Truth is, I missed it while on the (super, super) short Christmas vacation. Needless to say, I'm happy to get back into consulting.

Perhaps I am so excited about it because it's almost like returning to something familiar, only to discover that your perspective's a bit different. I stopped by the center a few times last week--to fill out paperwork, etc--and, to my surprise, it felt a bit like the first time that I saw my childhood bedroom after moving away from home. No, the center didn't look significantly smaller, at least not the front area, but it all felt really different. I took me a few hours to fully realize WHAT seemed so "off" to me, but I think that I might be able to articulate "it," now.

When I first began consulting, I had no idea what was ahead of me; I had no draft of myself, as a consultant, to--well, consult in times of confusion. I felt lost, overwhelmed at first, and the experiences that I did have to reference were not my own. We spent the first month, or so, of our tutoring class reading about other's experiences and theories--that was all that most of us had to lean upon when entering consultations and attempting to establish our own consultant personas. Often I found myself wishing I could be more carefree like Bouquet, or more writer-conscious like Sherwood. The further I got into the semester, and the more writers that I talked with, the more I was forced to move away from those experiences and theories of others--I was forced to begin forming my consultant-self from within.

I began looking at myself, at my actions, and at my writings critically in order to figure out how I operate as a consultant. Although it was difficult at first, I found that looking at myself in this way was beneficial and exciting. I began to form my own experiences and my own theories--and these eventually lead to the first writing portfolio that I was TRULY proud of. In other words, I feel as if I grew not only as a consultant but also as a writer over that last semester.

Perhaps what I'm trying to illustrate is that when I reentered the writing center last week, I was looking at it through the eyes of a consultant---perhaps for my first time, ever. I feel excited because I have MY experiences, and MY theories in which I, now, feel totally capable of applying to my sessions--and to my personal writings, too. I feel energized, I suppose, at the thought of actually being myself while doing something that I do really enjoy. Although I still do have a long way to go on my quest to figure this whole consultant-thing out, at least I've gained the knowledge, and the courage, needed to pursue it...

Am I alone on all this?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

5 Years and Counting...

I realized this evening that this January marks my fifth year as a writing tutor (I'm even including that one semester I was banned from tutoring because I was student teaching). That's a really long time to tutor - or it could be because it's the longest I've ever had the same job title.

Last semester - my first as a grad student - I took a class in which I recorded a tutoring session, transcribed it, and then wrote a really long paper about it ("really long" being a relative term). And I bumbled my way through the process, thinking that I was doing fine - I had no real problems transcribing the experience (unlike some, who seemed to spend weeks on the process); and I hadn't a real problem reflecting on my tutoring because my first director was, I think, excellent in so many ways, not the least of which was getting us to reflect on our sessions. Yet he nagged at me for semesters and years to record a session; I didn't listen. And now I wish I had listened. (Thanks, Harry. You were right - I should have done it sooner!) Because after I had submitted a draft of my tutoring analysis to my now-director and professor, she gave me back a veritable novel of comments, after which I met with her - and I had a very big, very obvious "ahha!" moment. In fact, I had several. They're still reverberating. I suddenly became extremely conscious of what I was saying, and how I was saying it, and what effect my words had on my students. I had different experience than my classmates, who hadn't (I don't think) been tutoring as long as I. They listened to their sessions and heard immediately all the things they were doing wrong. But I'd been tutoring so long, and had a background in education that none of them had, that allowed me to know how to avoid those pitfalls. I needed someone to show me a different mirror. And now I'm very, very conscious of the feedback I give my students, and I am really aware, for the first time, how difficult it is to leave myself out of the tutoring session - no matter how I think I'm repressing my opinions, there's still a danger that they're being offered just in how I phrase my responses and questions.

Anyway, I suppose I write this because I've noticed a lot of other students who write, on this blog, about their tutoring experiences and include references to things they've read. This is all very interesting, but I wish I had access to more self-reflective pieces about what tutors really learned about their own tutoring practices. And I wish there were a way to publicly share these experiences more. I would love to listen to other students' sessions, read their transcriptions, and read their analyses.

Dear me...

Dear me, It's not about you, but it will affect you, this work. Expect that. Learn to embrace that--the fact that your writing voice ...