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Showing posts from September, 2008

Writing Center Society

In the truest--if that can be said--sense of a blog, I am going to ramble for a few lines about an issue that faces me in the Writing Center.
I love my job in the Writing Center. There is a great group of dedicated consultants and a supporting director. However, the society within the center is changing. Changing in a way that leaves me on the edges. This is not a 'bad' thing; it is what is happening.
Before I get into this more, I am not hurt or angry about this. Centers change and progress as the consultants come and go. I have seen my center change many times in many ways over the last three and a half-ish years. So I am not mad or hurt. The center is changing and I am not as much a part of it as before.
There are a number of good reasons for this. First, I am not working as many hours this year. My lack of exposure to the new crew prevents forming close bonds, and it prevents me from integrating into the changes.
Second, I am teaching now and I do not have as much time to just…

My first sessions, unlisted disability

Hello Writing Center World,

Phillip Bode, intern at large coming to you live from Boise State University.

I had the pleasure today of handling my first two solo sessions with writers this afternoon. Both had never been in the writing center before and dropped in, unfamiliar how Da Center works. Conveniently enough both writers were from the same class (Communications 101) with the same assignment (write about your experience exchanging a worthless item). In both sessions I attempted to use the minimalist technique emphasized by Brooks.
The session with X got off to a slightly awkward start when I asked X to read the paper. X had already informed me they wanted to focus on grammar. when X read the paper though, he hovered over it completely not allowing me to even glimpse at it. It was not out of timidness on X's part however. I think that was just how they were comfortable/used to reading. I took quick notes as X read, on anything positive or negative that stood out audibly. X caugh…

A little "cheese" maybe? Or in this case, granola?

Arriving at my fifth week in my class on writing center tutoring, I found myself confused by all the MANY theories out there about writing center pedagogy. There are all sorts of opinions bouncing around inside my head, some with which I agree and some with which I do not (and I realize this may change after beginning sessions on my own). However, how do I make sense of it all? How could so many theories form together for the greater good the writing center, especially when some seem so very different from others?

And then it hit me.

Each of those sources is like each of the individual ingredients found in my favorite granola bars (Clif's new Mojo bar, mountain mix or peanut butter pretzel flavor to be exact), and like those ingredients, when melted into one unified form they serve a greater good.

You see, there are ingredients in those bars that, individually, I do not care for—just as with some of the journal excerpts on writing center pedagogy floating around in my brain. However…

Are we aiding and abetting fraud?

So, I was driving to school today and as always was listening to NPR (that's my self-promoting conversational piece informing you on how intelligent and connected I am) really, I just like the coverage on the campaign and "This American Life." Okay, I am already getting off topic and I haven't even gotten on topic yet.
Anyhow, the story I was listening to was about a woman who used to be a part of the admissions committee at Dartmouth and is now working as an independent consultant helping students with the admissions process for schools. For a cool $40,000, she will work with you from 9th grade to graduation to help prepare you for your college admissions process. And for the budget price of $14,000, she will help you write and revise your college application essay.
So, how in the world does this correlate to our world? Well, her work with college applications includes helping students decide on effective topics (staying away from "teen angst, or th…

NCTPW Conference Scholarships

This just in from Brian Fallon of NCPTW:

NCPTW Peer Tutor Scholarship and Travel Awards

The National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing is pleased to announce that monetary awards to support the scholarship, service, and conference participation of undergraduate and graduate writing center tutors have been established for the 2008 IWCA/NCPTW Las Vegas conference.

The Scholarship and Travel Awards (up to $250) will support conference travel expenses for peer tutors who have registered for the upcoming 2008 IWCA/NCPTW Las Vegas conference.

The committee will accept multiple applications from one institution but will try to make a balanced distribution of the scholarship funds to ensure awards for tutors from a number of schools. Tutors are encouraged to apply collaboratively for one award. Candidates for these awards must provide the following materials in their applications:

1. Name, e-mail address, mailing address, phone number, institution, and academic level (undergraduate or gra…

Safety first!

I've been reading Mike Mattison's new book Centered: A Year in the Life of a Writing Center Director (available from www.lulu.com) and came across the following passage:
My first year here [Boise State], we had a student come in, demand for us to read a paper, and then say "I'll shoot someone" if it doesn't happen. Incredibly poor choice of words, and the student was immediately brought before the conduct officer (fortunately, the conduct officer and I knew one another from a committee, so we had a good rapport). The student wrote letters of apology to the consultants and was also barred from the Center. (25)

Perhaps it is because of Phil's post below about mental illness and the writing centers or just the mayhem generally busy-ness of our writing center here at SLCC, but I've been thinking a lot about writing center safety of late.

Like most writing centers out there, we've had our scrapes with people who misbehave, but have only had to call t…

2008 Maine High School Writing Center Conference

From Richard Kent of the University of Maine:

We've organized our annual Maine High School Writing Center Day. I'm passing along this information as one model of a conference that asks students to be the primary presenters: http://maineschoolwritingcenters.blogspot.com/
2008 Maine High School Writing Center Conference: "On Wednesday, October 22, the secondary school writing center community of Maine will gather at the University of Maine in Orono.")

Is "gender" a consideration anymore? Or is the Weasel still running wild?

Hi Everyone-
I'm a new tutor at Boise State and I wanted to comment on a piece of an essay we read in our 303 class written by Elizabeth Boquet ("Snapshots of Life in the Center"). This is a very good essay, and I wanted to comment on one smaller part of it.

Boquet used her difficulty with dealing with a fellow tutor "Bill" to express gender concerns within the Writing Center. If you read this piece, "Bill" can be summed up as nothing more than a weasel because, at the time when Boquet wrote this essay, "Bill" "lorded" over the writing center with his vast computer knowledge, which enabled him to avoid serious tutoring responsibilities and gain advantages. "Bill" also, according to Boquet, lied about teaching a female colleague about a computer program. Is "Bill" an appropriate example of typical male behavior?

Boquet quoted Tannen,"men's communicative strategies are primarily heirarchical, while women foc…

writers exhibiting Mental Illness struggles

Hello Blog world,
Phillip Bode from Boise State's 303 Writing Center training course here.

In Volume 32, Number 10 of the Writing Lab Newsletter Mary Murray McDonald addresses the ways a consultant/tutor should handle writers who exhibit mental issues. In "Assessing and Responding to Clients with Severe Mental Disorders" she says she "spent much time talking with a counselor about these clients and decided to develop strategies using his advice, readings on these disorders, and our own observations." She recommends that the tutor/consultant direct the writer to the director of the writing center. How much this accomplishes is not stated other than it takes the distressed student out of the consultant/tutor's hands.
Murray notes that even though judging by appearance is not always ethical, it can be an early sign of a writer experiencing mental trauma, "one of the first clues that a student may have some severe mental difficulties that impact his or her…

PeerCentered Wordle

So I ran the PeerCentered RSS feed through Wordle and this is what came out:



It seems like we write a great deal about writing centers! (Place appropriate emoticon indicating wryness here.)

PeerCentered Flash Mob @ the Alexis

The facebook PeerCentered strikes again! PeerCentered will be hosting a flash mob at the upcoming International Writing Centers Association(IWCA)/National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing(NCPTW) 2008 Conference in Las Vegas. For 10 minutes starting at 12:05 on October 30, 2008, PeerCentered will mob the Zeus Foyer in the conference hotel, the Alexis Park*. Come get a PeerCentered button and meet your fellow PeerCenteristas.

"Housekeeping!"

Part of the fulfillment for an internship at the BSU Writing Center is to spend time observing sessions at the center. I'm not really sure if this has helped or hurt my confidence as a future consultant...I enjoy being able to watch what goes on in the sessions and observe how the veteran consultants handle obstacles, exercise their tact, and find ways to get students thinking about how they can improve their work. Many times, the consultants will convey ideas to the students that I am already thinking about, or make suggestions to them that, in my mind, I have already decided should be suggested. However, there are times when I feel that I would have a difficult time doing what the consultants do, and it causes me to worry about my own abilities as a tutor.

One example of this was a session I shadowed on Wednesday. A student came to the writing center with a mostly-finished draft of a paper she'd written for her English class. This next part is going to make me sound fai…

Misconceptions about Writing Centers

I'm in the BSU 303 class about tutoring writing, and we've had a few discussions about the misconceptions people have about the Writing Center. These inaccurate ideas can come from instructors who are not familiar with the Writing Center or from students, who may be inclined to bring these misconceptions with them to writing appointments.

Students may get the idea that the Writing Center will simply revise and/or correct a paper for the writer, or they may believe that an appointment with a tutor will guarantee a better grade. Student writers who come to the center may be frustrated and disappointed to find that they still need to maintain an active role in their own papers while in the center. I can imagine that many students would be tempted to say, "Well, you have the answers, just give them to me. It would make it easier on both of us."

I haven't actually conducted any of my own tutoring sessions yet, but I was wondering if any of the more 'seasoned vet…

I'm ready! I'm ready! I'm ready!

Wait, am I? Well… not entirely.
As a consultant in training, I’m still not even sure what being ready to be a writing consultant would entail. It’s sort of like preparing yourself for the unknown. I mean, who can really say what kind of issues will come up in the writing center? We may assume that all issues would have to do with writing, but even that assumption is occasionally (usually?) tossed out the window. In the 303 tutoring class, we’ve read and discussed quite a few different perspectives and ideas about writing center consultations. We’ve talked about different situations and different strategies. Honestly, sometimes there is so much to think about I get a little dizzy. But, I’m making progress. I find every time I observe a consultation I learn something new. I notice that more and more I have questions and suggestions for the writer during consultations, so maybe that is a sign of readiness? I do feel like I am getting somewhere, but I’m not quite sure if I will be ready wh…

Maslow's Hierarchy and the Writing Center Philosophy

GOOD BLOG TO YOU. As I read through the essays about writing center philosophy in our training class, I have begun to see a trend. It is obvious that the ultimate goal outlined in these articles is that a writing center should make students better writers through helping them to take ownership and agency in their work. Every essay and discussion is centered around a student finding their own way through the process, and becoming self actualized in the process. Taking true ownership depends on being outside the structure and thinking beyond grades and the desire of a professor for a certain project. Even the training class is an example of this. It is structured to give the students as many chances as possible to find the solutions for themselves. There are sometimes in there that it is a little frustrating, and I just want to hear that 'the answer is BLANK'. But it really does allow us to empathise with a student in that type of model. It's sort of a learn through example …

My Hobby

Today in class,
(I call it the "Tutor Training" class but most refer to it as "the 303 class")
we talked about grammar. Not really a whole lot was covered, but we went over some terms.
Someone in class mentioned that it was difficult to use these terms such as "comma splice" or "sentence fragment" Do we really need to know all of them? Is it necessary to know the names of the grammar tools we are using?

Mike said, "You all have hobbies right?" A couple people chatted about shooting guns and photography, they all used specific terms. Mike pointed out that each hobby has its own language and terms used to describe it.

Writing is a hobby of mine. I would love to learn the grammar language and use it in consultations. My goal as a writing consultant is to instill writing and grammar techniques that the writer can use later in life. It might be a far fetched goal, but I've always wanted to change the world. And I think that this is my calli…

Learning Really IS a Life-Long Process

As I was reading through our text, I came across words like "nexus," "vociferous," "ethnocentric," and "matrilineal," just to name a few. I am not ashamed to admit that I had no idea what these words meant, even though I read the text and it all flowed nicely. OK, actually, I sort of knew what matrilineal meant, but I wasn’t 100% sure. I still had to look it up just ease my mind. I wrote these vocabulary words down and logged onto dictionary.com when I got home to look up their meaning.

I am 44 years old and here I am, looking up these words online because I don’t know what they mean. I know the author used them in the right context. Still, to me they are big words. Does that mean I have a limited vocabulary? It sort of makes me feel like my education is a little inadequate, and I ought to have a huge vocabulary by now. I am, after all, 44 years old. I mean, I worked as an executive assistant for a vice president in a large corporation…

Alas

You know at 41, having been on the internet since 1988, you would think that I would have it all down. Yet I couldn't log in to the PeerCentered blog, since I confused my Google account with it and for some reason just didn't "get" that I had to ask Clint nicely to be included. This is a perfect segue into talking about those exasperating moments when you think you know things like the back of your hand, and then you look down and discover your hand has aged twenty years when you weren't paying attention, and now appears to have carpal tunnel and some kind of spotty dry skin. Aargh.

I'm in the 303 class with the most delightful people, struggling over stupid personal problems that I know intellectually are not the baggage of a twenty something and don't need to be carted into an environment primarily populated with twenty somethings. I found myself crankily spouting some cynical ideas about the educational system and how we simply can't cater to ev…

Writing Center Research Project Survey

This is from Vanessa Kraemer posted on WCENTER:

Hello!

We are pleased to announce the 4th biannual writing center survey. Please go to http://www.wcrp.louisville.edu and click on "Take the Survey for 2008!" Directors who have completed the survey in previous years may simply update information that has changed. If your school is not listed, you may create an institutional profile under "New School."

Your information will be saved if you would like to complete the survey in more than one session. If you are no longer director of your writing center, please forward this message to the current director. This survey produces benchmark information about writing centers essential to our field. Therefore, your participation is vital.

Please complete before October 15th, 2008. If you have any questions, please contact Carrie Wright (cmwrig04@louisville.edu) or Vanessa Kraemer (nesskraem@gmail.com).

Thank you …

PeerCentered FAQ project?

I've received a few requests from potential PeerCentered bloggers with questions about how to post and what not. Does anyone want to take on the task of posting a FAQ for PeerCentered that lets people know what to do and how to do it? I'd be forever grateful. It would be nice if blogger.com were like WordPress, where you can create static pages out of such posts, but we'll just have to live with it as a post, that I can link to over in the sidebar -->.

NEOWCA wrap-up

Yesterday was the 2nd annual NEOWCA conference, held at Walsh University.

First, a bit of background: last year, a group of WC directors in North East Ohio formed the NEOWCA (North East Ohio Writing Centers Association), a kind of mini-local. Last year, was their first conference.

I had a great time; the conference ran very smoothly, in Walsh's brand-new conference center. They said about 90 people registered to attend, an increase from last year. For a mini-conference, its getting pretty big!

The goal of NEOWCA is to be very tutor-focused. In keeping with that, most of the conference presenters are tutors themselves, and when directors do present, they focus on tutor-related issues, rather than tackling more administrative subjects. This approach works well, given the smaller size of the conference, and a more salient feeling of community emerges. Since we're all nearby, we know each other's schools, and many faces from last year's conference (as well as Spring&#…

The New Crew and Being Misunderstood: a two part blog entry

Since the semester started, I have seen many new faces around the Center at BSU. I am quite excited about this both in the sense that I get to talk about my experiences with writers, and that I am able to see entirely new, fresh perspectives of writing center work. For the past year now, I have been able to form my own opinions and pedagogy to working with students based off of class lectures, readings, writings, and watching veterans. But now I feel like I get to see all new ideas and personalities when working with writers, and, quite frankly, I am excited.



Now for my other thought. I visited a history professor of mine yesterday and threw out the idea that she suggest to students the writing center when they get hung up on developing arguments, creating flow in the paper, or simply writing a history paper in general. She was very excited that I mentioned these things rather than mechanics, grammar, and spelling. I have talked to people before who have all given similar reactions. I…

Paring down the cast

Occasionally (well usually once per year) I have to trim down the PeerCentered contributor list, just to keep it sane. What this means, unfortunately, is that if you haven't posted within the last 12 months you will be unceremoniously removed as a contributor to the blog. That doesn't mean, of course, that you can't comment on the blog. It just keeps people on their toes, I suppose.

For those folks who just joined, don't worry--I have a good enough memory that I won't delete you. In case my memory has failed, just send me an email in which you attack my poor memory, and I'll make sure you're back in.

Bring! bring!

Sorry for the title. I thought maybe I could annoy people with my cheesiness, just as sometimes people annoy me with their cell phones in the Writing Center. Of course we have polite signs strategically placed around the Center whispering "If you need to use your cell phone, please do so in the hallway" and "Please turn off your cell phone during consultations--Thank you." But of course, just like in class, at the movies, and in traffic court, cell phones continue to ring--and sometimes, continue to be answered.

What's the best thing to do when a writer answers a phone during a consultation? We've talked a bit in our Peer Consulting class about how we would react to such an affront. Responses vary from reading through and making notes for discussion on the draft while the writer is 'engaged' to quitting involvement in the session completely.

Yesterday, I had just shown a writer to a consulting table and given her forms to fill out. I left the ta…

Fierce new look! Hot mess up in here!

Ok, the only way I know the term "fierce" is through the above Saturday Night Live sketch that makes fun of a fashion reality show that I haven't seen, so I can't say if I am using it correctly or not to describe PeerCentered's new look and feel.

In any case, the highlights of our new hot mess are a fancy blogroll applet that actually takes quotations from the specific blogs in question, a link to writing center-related videos on YouTube, RSS feeds, a "follow me" section, and a news feed with links to writing center news articles on the web.

Enjoy the hot mess, folks. Hey, at least I didn't call it tranny now did I?

Fierce!

Change...

Well, a new semester has begun, and I've bought all my books, but the only thing I am excited, at all, about is returning to the Center. I wasn't planning to return this semester--hence my last "Goodbye" post, but I am so glad I changed my mind. I changed my mind for various reasons--the student writers are great, the other consultants are super, the selection of candy is always divine--but, perhaps the number one reason I decided to return is that I just plain missed it, all of it.

It's odd, the effect consulting can have on an individual. (When I say individual, I really mean me.) Seeing new faces around the center reminds me of how much change occurs within the walls of the center, within the peoples of the Center. There, change occurs on various levels. Sometimes, change occurs almost invisibly within a session--like that "ah ha!" realization that happens silently, internally within a writer. Sometimes, it's a little more external and noticeable-…