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 thing I just do, without thinking much about it--at least, not until revisions. But, she wanted to know how to get started, and how to write an introduction.

Of course, I explained to her how to introduce the topic, with the main point generalized in the introduction, then adding details and descriptions and such in the body paragraph, and then wrapping everything up in the conclusion. But just explaining wasn't really enough. So, I picked up that awesome MLA/APA style guide and we took a look at some of the sample essays. That seemed to have helped a little bit more, even if the essays weren't really the same kind she'd be writing. And then, when she got a better idea, we started really brainstorming. I suggested breaking down the huge course description (it was about 5 pages long--no wonder the summary was supposed to be so long), into pieces, and looking at all the key points, and figuring out what each section meant to her.

By the end of the session, I really felt that I'd helped, and she promised to come back to the writing center for another paper she had to do (which we also discussed briefly). I loved the way the consultation really turned around though. It was as though both of us were confused. I wasn't sure how I could help her at first, and she was didn't know where to start. Then, we came to an understanding...and then, the consultation ended with a good feeling, as though I actually helped. I like the contrast between thinking "How can I help? I don't know..." and then the promise that she'd be back to the center, and she now knew what to do.

It seems that a lot of my consultations go through that pattern...but I think it's been a learning experience...for both me and the writers.


  1. Wow, yeah, I'm trying to think of how I would answer the question "How do you write an essay?" and drawing a blank. That's great that you really made a difference. I have a goal this semester to end every session with the student having an idea of at least one thing to do, or work on, or think about. Thanks for explaining how you helped the returning student. That's a great example of helping someone narrow something crazily huge (essay writing) into manageable tasks with which to continue on. Nice job!

  2. A noble goal, Elizabeth.

    Cassie, it sounds like you did a great job working with the client. I find that each difficult question I am asked by a client, the more I learn about my own writing and my own views of writing.
    I truly hope I never stop being stumped from time to time. If that happens, I need a vacation.

  3. To piggyback on Elizabeth and Zach a little bit...

    Yeah, I really appreciate your sharing of your experience. It helps sometimes just to hear about other's experiences--good, bad or whatever. I've had this question asked of me twice...it's a stumper!

    Once it turned out great, and the second time, it didn't turn out as great.

    Sounds like you handled this question, and the entire situation very well--it's a difficult question, but as you proved, it's do-able. I'm with Elizabeth and Zach--nice job, Cassie.


  4. I think you are so right in that we "forget" how to do the things we do all the time. This kind of reminds me of my one year old son. In trying to "show" him how to crawl, sit-up, stand-up, etc. I really had to think about how I did those things. I mean, I do them everyday. I don't have to think about it. But in order to show him how his body was supposed to move, I really had to think it through - where each limb should be to get you in the right position. Writing essays have become so familiar that we no longer think about the process, we just jump in and start doing it.


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