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Showing posts from March, 2008

Tutoring Economic Class

Recently, we had a discussion in my WC about the (lack of) diversity on our campus. The campus is about 93% white, and during the daytime, the halls are filled with "traditional" 18-24 year olds. But by the evening, the average age begins to go up as more non-traditional students fill the classrooms. But the comment that really fueled discussion was when one person said our campus was mostly middle/upper middle class.

As far as I know, my school does not keep records on student income (or at least I've never seen any). Socio-economic status is a major factor in a person's lifestyle - but it's one that can remain somewhat invisible to others. Given the university setting, I can understand a person's immediate response that everyone they meet is economically stable, but I also know that this just isn't the case.

In her memoir Invisible Privilege, academic Paula Rothenberg discusses the role that economic class plays in her classroom. Teaching philosop…

Writing Center Blogs

Jackie Grutsch McKinney recently wrote to the writing center email list WCENTER inquiring about blogs that folks in writing centers make use of. Here are her results:

Hi all,

A couple weeks ago I asked if any of you were doing public writing center blogs. Since quite a few people indicated to me they were curious, too, I'm sending what I've collected.

Here are the public blogs:

Mercy Reading and Writing Center: http://mrwc.squarespace.com/center-and-margin/ (Jennifer Wells)
MTSU: http://processingthecenter.blogspot.com/ (Rachel Robinson)
St. Joseph College: http://ecaetutoringsite.blogspot.com/ (Judy Arzt)
College of Lake Country: www.clcwritingcenter.blogspot.com (Jenny Staben)
Wright State: btw2 (Beyond the Written Word) and writing.bytes. (David Bringhurst)
Ohio University: www.thewritersblockparty.blogspot.com (Talinn Phillips)

And, there are some wikis:

JCCC Writing Center: www.jccwc.pbwiki.com (Kathryn Bryne)
Saddleback College: http://saddleback-writing-center.wikispaces.com/

Suggestions

I was thinking about something today during physics (which had nothing to do with physics) that I thought I would bring up on PeerCentered. This "something" goes beyond writing centers and into the realm of teaching. I realize that we have lots of English Comp. teachers (and other teachers), so, anyone, feel free to chime in.

This now very vague thing that I was thinking about during physics was the extent to which we (being teachers, consultants, friends, etc.) influence the writing of others (being the students we teach, work with, or are friends with).

I think that I would be safe to say that by now in our educational careers we have all developed a very unique way of writing (and thus reading). Sometimes when I am reading articles, essays, or books I get hung up certain sentences, transitions, or styles because they feel entirely different than something I would write. It is like walking into an entirely new place; your eyes stutter a few times before becoming familiar w…

Race in the Writing Center

Yes, I am on Sping Break, and yes, I am posting to Peer Centered. I'm a geek and I have a problem - but at least I can admit it.

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Anyways, I have some questions I want to work out with the readers here. I attend a mostly white university (the student pop. is about 93% white). Most of the students come from similarly segregated schools, and for most, race is an issue that is never discussed or thought about. However, many profs here give composition students assignments dealing with race, and consequently we see their papers in the WC. My first question is this: Should writing center training include discussion of race and racism?

Personally, I think it should. (As a point of clarification, our tutors take a full-semester, full-credit course on WC work taught by our director, so I am working from the assumption that training has the time to address such issues). Race plays itself out in a variety of ways in university life. Maybe most importantly, I can see the ways universities…

Suggestions

I was thinking about something today during physics (which had nothing to do with physics) that I thought I would bring up on PeerCentered. This "something" goes beyond writing centers and into the realm of teaching. I realize that we have lots of English Comp. teachers (and other teachers), so, anyone, feel free to chime in.

This now very vague thing that I was thinking about during physics was the extent to which we (being teachers, consultants, friends, etc.) influence the writing of others (being the students we teach, work with, or are friends with).

I think that I would be safe to say that by now in our educational careers we have all developed a very unique way of writing (and thus reading). Sometimes when I am reading articles, essays, or books I get hung up certain sentences, transitions, or styles because they feel entirely different than something I would write. It is like walking into an entirely new place; your eyes stutter a few times before becoming familiar w…

Less Than Helpful Consultation?

A while ago, I had a consultation with a nontradition (older) student, who needed advice on how to write an essay. Last week, I had a similar student, but the outcome wasn't nearly the same. And I'd have to say, it was probably the most difficult consultation I've ever faced.

She wanted help organizing her essay into an outline. Sounds easy enough (she knew the basics of writing an essay). But it seemed like she was struggling with the content and didn't realize it. The problem was, I tried helping her revolve her outline around a thesis--but she didn't have one. She was supposed to write an analysis, but what she had was a summary. She needed a point, and I didn't see how she could outline anything without a main point to it all -- a way to connect everything together.

Well, we kept going around in circles and not getting anywhere. There was just something blocking our communication. She wasn't understanding me, and she didn't think I was understanding h…

Grammar? I JUST WANT TO DANCE

I have to say: I have had little variety in the center this semester as far as consultations go. It seems like the consultations I love—those that end up being more like fiction or personal essay workshops—have dissolved into the mist like Jane Goodall’s silverbacks. I realize to yearn for the comfort of a consultation like that is rather selfish; but, then again, they are so, so fun. To talk with a writer who cares truly for the craft enough to want to come talk to another craft-caring individual remains one of my ultimate joys.

But, as I said, these are a relative pipedream. The semester has yielded none, count-‘em, zero, goose egg worth of crafty consultations. And yet they all seem consistent, at least as per theme: Grammar. I know many consultants will cringe as they read the “g” word, but then again I cringe when I read the WHT word (William Howard Taft).

So, yes. I’d say 98 percent of the tutoring sessions I’ve dealt with so far this semester have been grammar-io-centric…

Revival of the Live Chat.

Years ago PeerCentered started out as a live (real-time) chat session. Folks from around the world gathered to talk about peer tutoring and writing center issues. I am curious if anyone is interested in having a live chat session again? I suppose we could go all fancy and try a Skype event too, but perhaps we should just start simple with a chat on facebook. There is an application that you can add (Group Chat) that lets you go into the same chat room as other folks in the group.

Any interest?

Connecting to Escape...

I'm thinking a lot about the opposite of the escapist ideas that Sara W presents. I agree with Sara and Andrew that writing center consultations are a place to set aside our worries, and focus on someone else. When are we pulled back in? Do you find yourself ever sharing information about yourself in a session--educational, historical, opinionical, favorite foodical, romantical? When does such sharing lead to establish rapport between consultant and writer? When is such sharing ridiculously inappropriate? Your reflections on this topic are super-appreciated by me, as I work to form a connected study...:)

Awesome Consultation

The other day I had an extremely awesome consultation. I was working with an ELL student from Japan, and he was such cool guy to work with. His assignment was to write a paper from the first person point of view. He chose to write it from the point of view of his grandmother. She was in Japan when America bombed them during World War II, and it was extremely interesting to read. It was a positive story too; it was about overcoming and appreciating everything you had. There was absolutely nothing negative about it. This guy was the same way. He was working extremely hard to learn English (and he was quite good at it I might add), and I had a great time explaining things to him.
He was genuinely interested in word choice and different ways to use words. In a sentence in which he was describing faces sweating he said the “faces got sweat.” I had the opportunity to explain how nouns can sometimes become verbs and that in this case he would be able to use “sweat” as a verb and re…

Are Writing Consultations a Method of Escape?

Isn’t it interesting the zone we can go into while working with another student? We can be having the most horrible day in the world, but it can all truly be left at the door during a consultation. I have always stressed about bringing my problems to work with me. Life doesn’t seem to go right most of the time, which can drain you and make you a little more difficult to work with than you might be otherwise, and I truly worry about how that can affect my consultations. I find that I am a totally different person during a consultation. I feel alert and focused. I am so tired most of the time, tired enough that I don’t even know how I get any of my homework done, but somehow I managed to feel alert and often pumped during a consultation. Does anyone else feel this way? I will leave a consultation that has gone well feeling extremely feeling motivated to try to work on my own homework or writing, which is so beneficial with when I felt so tired before the consultation that I didn…

A question for you

Here is a question from Joyce Hicks from the Valparaiso University Writing Center:
Areconsultants and writing centers finding new ways of addressing second language writers' concerns? Do typical writing center practices adequately address these students' needs or faculty requests? Are writing center practices changing as a result of increased numbers of non-native speakers?Please reply via comment.

Religion in the Writing Center

This is a topic I have tried to give some some thought to for quite some time, but I never seem to get anyway with it. I'm hoping perhaps someone can offer some insight or possibly lead me to an article somewhere.

My writing center seems to attract people with a very wide, and by no means mainstream, religious spectrum. All of our current "senior tutors" have a different religious affiliation (atheist, Pagan, Christian, and Jewish). We are all aware of each other's beleifs, and sometimes we discuss them, but we never talk about ways our religions may play into our work as tutors. What seems to bond us is the shared beleif in doing good work here on earth, in making that direct one-on-one impact, but also that sense of tolerance, if not respect, for each other's faiths.

Maybe this all stems from attending a liberal arts univeristy, where "tolerance" and "diversity" are the buzzowrds of the day. Maybe we just got lucky in my writing cente…

Wet, angry, and still without the words

Well, it seems that I've entered some sort of foggy cloud that's interfering with the writing of the actual paper for the RMPTC coming up. Truthfully, it surrounds all of my writings. It seems that I've encountered a mid-semester case of writer's block--the really black kind, the kind that looms over most of my days, thoughts, and dreams. It waits to rain, though, until I'm approaching some sort of deadline, and then all my fears, frustration, and doubt flood my thoughts. I'm left wet, angry, and still without the words that I need to complete the writing that I have to do.

I sound entirely ridiculous here, but that's only because I feel entirely ridiculous! What the heck's wrong with me? I've encountered this sort of thing before, and I'm sure that many of you have, too. What's different about this one, and this time, for me, is that the cloud won't go away. I can't seem to write my way out of it. I've tried everything. And, al…

To Blog or Not to Blog

So, I'm sure that those of you who post regularly are not very familiar with my name since it rarely appears here. You see, I am one of those people who does not visit my computer unless I absolutely have to. In theory, I love the idea of a blog like this one. I think it is an amazing tool for people to get together and discuss common issues across a discipline. But as I said, I do not like the computer. I am adamantly a face to face kind of girl.
So you may be asking yourselves, "if this girl hates the computer so much, why is she rambling on in a blog about how much she hates the computer?" Well, the answer is quite simple. You see, our director has asked us to post here. That, and we are hosting the RMPTC this year and I have been asked to join a round table discussion about blogging (I am the anti in case you hadn't figured it out by now. Anti just sounds so harsh. I'm really not anti; more like I'd rather not. But that sounds offensive too.…

SCWCA Final Report

Today the conference ended with lunch and a some remarks in a fantastic building on OU. The remarks focused on how writing out loud can lead to a better understanding of the topic and can develop more sophisticated and detailed writing. In addition, Kevin Davis regaled the group with stories of his children and how they taught him lessons about writing and understanding life.
On such story that was particularly powerful was about his daughter. When she was young, they lived in CA and she had never seen it snow. She had seen snow, but only on the ground. To her, snow was like the rocks and grass: it was only on the ground was just there. They moved to Michigan when she was a little older. The first time it snowed, Kevin watched his daughter standing in front of the window as she stood enraptured by the snow. After a few moments she said, "Oh. So that's how it is." She understood the snow and what she had seen back in CA.
Writing out loud is a little like that. When we see i…

Hello from OU!

The trip to Oklahoma left a great deal to be desired, but the conference has not. Speaking as the lone representative of BSU and the person who traveled the furthest--within the United States--OU and the SCWCA conference is wonderful!

Granted, I have been harassed slightly about the BSU victory over OU in the Fiesta Bowl, but nothing too serious.

On more serious notes, there have been some insightful and fascinating sessions today. Following the theme of writing out loud, one presentation discussed how writing can become richer by thinking of it as a performance. Two other presenters demonstrated and explained the development of their "work matrix." It is a collection of adjectives that are arranged in a matrix by intensity and usage. It functions as a quasi-thesaurus for writers that they are familiar with but may not think to use. The mad-lib-esque demonstration resulted in a spirited discussion and collaboration of where work matrices can go and be used. Anne Ellen Geller g…

The Truth Hurts?

I read a very interesting and entertaining paper during one of my consultations today. It was about Seinfeld and some obsessive fans (not a huge Seinfeld watcher myself, I still found the paper hilarious). Not only was it interesting and intertaining, the paper was also pretty well written--organized well, flowed smoothly, had a clear focus, etc. For the most part all the components of a well written paper were there.

So what was difficult about this consultation?

At the end of the consultation he asked, "So, do you think this fits the assignment? Does it sound like an ethnography?"

I can't lie and tell him it does, because that certainly wouldn't help him, his paper, or his grade. But how do I nicely tell him that his wonderfully entertaining, well written paper probably doesn't quite work as an ethnography? I hate being the bearer of bad news. He had obviously spent some time on the paper, he seemed to really like the paper...and now I have to answer his ques…

Introduction

Hello! I just joined this blog and thought perhaps I should introduce myself. My name is Andrew Rihn. I am a 24 year old undergraduate at a regional campus of Kent State University. This is my fourth semester working in the writing center here under Dr. Jay Sloan. My main writing center interests are our use of metaphors, and the more overtly political work of the writing center, specifically related to social justice, like anti-racist work or addressing social privileges.

Outside of the writing center, I am an English major with minors in Writing and Women's Studies. I like writing poetry and reading biographies. I am happily coupled with my significant other and we live together with a dog and a cat. A few of my idiosyncrasies: I can play the ukulele and I have an obsession with the presidency of Richard M. Nixon.

Anyways, I love the blog, and hopefully I won't bring the content-level down too much!

The perfect paper

Very rarely does it happen, but sometimes writers bring in papers that I find really hard to comment on because they are just plain good. For example, a few months ago a student from Kenya came in with a personal research paper about her cat. Her cat suffered from a disease that was causing its fur to fall out, so the student started doing research about the possible causes. No, she didn't call it Mr. Bigglesworth disease, but she had found the disease, found what causes it, and began to implement possible treatments. While she read the paper out loud in the session, I completely forgot that I was even in the writing center. The paper was genuinely interesting, and her voice and her accent were somehow soothing after a long day. She blended personal experience with solid research in a very seemless way, which is what I try to teach my 101 students.

When I realized near the end of the paper that I really didn't have much to say about it except, "Wow. That was a reall…