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Showing posts from February, 2008

Wrap it up...

Alright. I have made it a habit to discuss conclusions with just about every one of the students that I see in the Center. The problem here is that I have no idea how to describe what a conclusion is. Usually it is hit or miss:

"Wrap it up, bring up the main topics, try not to introduce new points, etc." *student nods happily* (hit).

"You know...conclude the paper." *student looks blank* (miss).

Anyways, I find it so hard to describe what the heck a conclusion is. I know what it is in my mind (I write them all the time) but for the life of me I cannot describe what it is to a student.

I thought that I would consult my fellow consultants on consulting with students about conclusions. What do you think? How do YOU explain these exciting endings to the students you visit with?

The Resistant Writer: Futile or Exhausting?

I may be biased, but I think the Writing Center is a pretty inviting place. It’s well-lit, there’s free sugar in a bowl (actual candy--not the Nina Simone song), and (most of the time) somebody is there to greet the writer as she or he walks in. If you added in a massage table and a nacho bar, that’d be my idea of heaven, my friend. Despite all the organized niceties, there are still writers who come in that don’t want to be there. You see it in their faces—the impatience in their eyes, the corners of their mouths threatening to curl downward. Their voices, through a veneer of controlled and forced politeness, betray everything from indifference to outright hostility. These are the writers who have come to the Writing Center against their will to fulfill a class requirement.

Please note that I am not saying that every student who comes in because it’s required by the professor is not open to the experience. Far from it. These students, I’ve found, are positive about making the most of …

Strange occurence the other day...

Sitting at the computer on a particularly slow day, just doing my MySpace thing, the phone rings. The caller is a female grad. student looking for a little help with citations on (something).
“Fine,” I say, “Great! Let’s get it done! I can make an appointment for you right now!” We go through the whole bureaucratic rigmarole and she asks my name for clarification purposes. “Dale,” I say. I say this because it’s my name.
Here, incredulity sets in on the writer’s part: “Not Dale…Eisinger?”
No big deal, I figure, as TONS of people have heard of me (cough). “Why yes of course! How many Dales do you know who don’t live in rustic shacks?”
“Dale,” she says “this is Ramona-Jo Pemberton [Names have been changed to protect the innocent.] Remember me? I used to baby sit you when your parents lived on the Mesa.”
Now, I have to interject in the tale, here, with an aside: I don’t really care what this woman knows about me. She probably has seen my privates in the changing of a diap…

ELL Email Consultation

So, I don’t have a lot of experience with email consultations in general, but the other day, I had an ELL email consultation, which was a first for me. It was a lot more difficult. When dealing with ELL students, it’s a lot easier to talk to them, in person, about grammar and such. But how do you explain grammar in an email? Looking for trends in the paper is a good start, but what if there aren’t really very many? What if most of the errors are different?

Well, unfortunately, that was sort of the case with this email consultation. There weren’t many trends. Most of the grammatical errors were all different, and I didn’t really know how to address them all. So, I didn’t. I did the best I could to look for the ones that were most important and the ones that were “trends.” And then, I focused more on the paper as a whole, even though I don’t think it was exactly what the student asked for. I did suggest to the student, though, that if he/she (I can’t remember which) wanted to focus more …

PeerCentered on facebook

If you are a facebooker, you might want to seek out the new PeerCentered facebook group. (Just search for PeerCentered and you should find it. If that doesn't work, just search for me, Clint Gardner--clint.gardner@slcc.edu and add me as a friend. You should then be able to find it from my list of groups.)

This facebook thing is just another iteration of the PeerCentered concept to reach peer tutors who are horribly addicted to the online social networking platform from hell. ;-) In other words, the blog and podcast will still be around for our mutual edification.

Removing the Sludge

Well, I did it. I finally wrote my one page Sociology response--it's due at midnight and I just, five blissful minutes ago, hit send. Writing it was like scooping-up sludge; I literally put it off till the last minute, and I usually despise doing that. I avoid doing that at all costs, but this assignment...geesh! I swear that single page was the most difficult assignment of the semester, so far. Weird, I can dish-out a 12 page personal narrative in a single day, but a one page Sociology response, that I had a whole week to complete, almost defeated me. It's moments--or weeks--like this one that really make me sympathize with the writers that I talk with.

Can you imagine what it'd feel like to scoop-up sludge every single time you sat down to compose something? I feel fortunate that it only happens to me once in a while and that I am able to get through it relatively unscathed. As I was sitting here thanking my (extremely late) sociology muses and trying to figure out how I …

free ticket to copyediting town

Hi Peers. After my last session, I have come to the startling realization that I profile students by the writing they bring to the center. I claim to be all for assisting in making better writers, not better writing. But when a student brings in any sort of application, statement of purpose, or CV-like document to work on, I accidentally throw all of my consultant theory out of the window. I transform into a busy-bodied stage mother, trying to make them as presentable as possible without really embracing the larger idea. These students are going to be applying to things for the rest of their lives, and just as I want to help them learn to strongly revise their papers themselves, I should want them to strongly build their own applications. In reality, I am probably (hopefully) exaggerating my issue of control and favoring product over process in consultations focused on applications. But it is an issue that I just realized could be a problem in my tutoring style--if I'm here…

Saturday Morning Opposites

Hello, All-

I had two polar opposite consultations this Saturday morning: my first was with a young, male student who had absolutely no desire to be at the Writing Center (WC), and my second was with an older, female returning student who was very eager to be at the WC. We'll call the first student John and the second student Jane.

John arrived about 20 minutes late (he slept in). We sat down, and, noting that he had been to the WC before, I somewhat expected him to know the basic routine--he did not (or at least he didn't seem to). I asked him what he would like to get out of the consultation and if there was anything specific he would like to focus on. To which he replied "umm, I don't know. Not really." I tried to liven up the mood by joking with him about being at the WC on a Saturday morning--it didn't work. John didn't care what we discussed because he didn't even care to be at the WC in the first place; his professor requires students to c…

Writing Center Tutor or Writing Tutor?

What does it mean to be a writing center peer tutor? Does that meaning differ from being a peer writing tutor? I ask because our writing center peer tutors could very well become peer writing tutors in a learning center in the near future. I'd like to be able to ask the tutors how they see their work here, but the change of space and reporting structure has their emotions in overdrive, and I fear their responses would be purely from emotion.

Do you think there's a difference in the work? A difference in how you would approach the work? How do you think or do you think the name change is just that -- a name change? Is there something more to being called a writing center tutor than there is to being called a writing tutor in a learning center?

Do you think there's a difference in what it means to be part of the community of writing centers? Aren't writing tutors in a learning center still part of the larger wc community?

If we say that what's most important are the stu…

Go That Way...Maybe

Hello PeerCentered...

I just worked with a student who had some questions on revision for his papers. He sat down and pulled out three 40-page Political Science reports and wanted my feedback on them. I could just feel the excitement in the air. By the time he finished explaining that he was new to APA formatting, and that his professor wanted his papers (novels) formatted in APA, I was more or less a broken human being. I had a half hour to fit his expectations, read through his papers, and teach him APA (and teach myself, ha!)...

I decided to remedy the situation by pulling out a few APA books and showing him what the title page is, what the abstract is, and how to go about formatting the paper. Even better, I showed him our website (Boise State) and the "resources" page on it where he could find information about formatting APA. Thankfully he was very excited about the fact that he can go home, learn APA, and go from there. I also suggested speaking to his professors about …

Response to Greg's post

I would like to respond to Greg's post below. I am currently working on a paper regarding a lot of the issues you brought up in your post (in fact, I may refer to your blog post in my paper, if that is okay). I agree with your assessment that when working with ELL students who are fairly proficient in English it is easier to focus on the bigger picture when it comes to their writing, but you asked what about those ELL students who do not have as easy a time with the language.

I think the key to this issue is offering choices and learning to be a good listener. For instance, if you don't understand what someone is writing, just ask questions. Sometimes an ELL student will use a word that doesn't quite make sense to our native ears. If we ask them questions about what they are trying to write/say then we can offer them several choices for a more appropriate word choice. But in order to ask the right questions (or at least questions that will get you from point A to po…

Ongoing sessions with ELL students

In the Boise State writing center over the past year and a half, I have worked closely with a number of non-native English Writers/Speakers in weekly sessions. For example, I worked with an engineering professor from China, a graduate engineering student from India, and a Brazilian student in the early stages of her business degree. The professor wanted help editing, proofreading, and making minor revisions to a rough draft of a book about Wireless Networks. The student from India sought help in understanding the conventions for plagiarism in US academia and ways to synthesize large amounts of research into her own words and organizational pattern. The business student sought help with resumes, business memos, and short essays. In all cases, these people had high levels of proficiency in spoken English, so verbal communication was not a problem.

However, all three of them were not familiar with certain word patterns and grammatical structures that affected the cohesiveness and cl…

2nd week of school

So, this week wasn't so busy...at least not on Monday or Tuesday. But Wednesday, I actually had 3 appointments (thanks, Jenny!) But it was nice--that feeling of business, and feeling like you really helped someone. I took a walk in Wednesday, and I had 2 scheduled appointments. It was a nice change from the deadness in the center, on Tuesday--I was there 9-11am, and then 6-7pm, with no appointments. Granted, it's the 2nd week of school.

So, on Wednesday, I had kind of an unusual appointment with more of a non-traditional student...she was coming back to school, after not having been in years, and she came in for a brainstorming session. She was to write a 2000-word essay, summarizing a course description. Instead of wanting ideas for content, however, she wanted to know how you're supposed to write an essay. You'd think such a simple question would be really easy to answer. But I really didn't know what to say. At this point, for me, essay writing is an automatic th…