Stray cats

No, I'm not writing about the 80's Brian Setzer band project, but about the cats that are wandering around the Alexis Hotel where the 2008 NCPTW/IWCA joint conference is being held. Today, as I was walking back to my room taking a break from being Lord Techmeister General, I noted the cats that someone had mentioned to me earlier that day or yesterday. They, of course, are not really stray cats (being that they never really had a home) but are true wild cats. They, no doubt, rome the Alexis grounds catching vermin and birds for a living. They may dine on the odd convention sandwich carelessly left on a bench, but hey, that's free food, and who is going to refuse free food?

Now what 's the point, you are asking yourself and me while you read this? I found these cats rather interesting. Here they are, hanging on to this resort--making it their own lair. They live quite well here. I came upon a crew of them in mid-cat-argument. One was strutting his stuff. Another was cowling in a corner. A third, who had fled the previously-mention strutter, was strutting-his own stuff across the way.

All hell broke loose, however, when I intervened. I generally like cats. I always have. It is not necessarily their aloofness that appelas to me, as much as their general indifferent friendliness. Generally if you pet a cat, it will pet you back, so to speak.

These cats, however, were having none of that. They skittered away from me quicker than Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Ok, you are now asking yoursef what the hell this all has to do with peer tutoring.

A whole lot, I tell you.

It is so easy to think that we know best. It is so easy to come from the outside and think that what we have to offer is what student writers need. The fear these cats displayed at my trying to be friendly reminded me of the general trepidation that is often reported about students before they come into the writing center.

Can we learn anything from stray cats or stray students?


  1. Anonymous10:12 AM

    I can't help but wonder...were these black cats that crossed your path?

  2. Anonymous10:29 AM

    Now in response to the tutoring part...

    I was once a "stray cat" fearful of the friendly strangers in the Writing Center. I was ultimately scared of feeling stupid (not sure if that's what the cats were afraid of or not). Since the Writing Center has taken me in and made me one of their own (domesticated me?), I now know that my fears were silly. Whenever I do classroom visits or talk to "stray cats" about the writing center I make it a point to demonstrate how not scary we are (thought maybe it is this exact friendliness that is so terrifying).

    I suppose what's most interesting to me is whether a stray who stumbles upon the Writing Center remains a stray or becomes domesticated (still not real sure how much I like that word). Maybe we should just ask the "stray cats." What is it about the Writing Center that makes you hiss, makes your hair stand up straight, and makes you arch your back?

    Maybe we should drop the analogy for the survey though...

  3. I fall in a pretty undesirable place in your cats metaphor, Clint. You see, I didn't notice any cats at all in Alexis Park. Might this mean I am completely unaware of nervous students, skittering about the fringes of the Writing Center? Might it mean I am so self-absorbed that I only react to cats and writers if they react to me first?

    Mike kids that if we have a 'no-show' in the schedule we are responsible for immediately finding someone else to work with. Maybe if I pay more attention to my surroundings, I'd notice there are cats/writers right there to recruit. :)

  4. Anonymous7:19 PM

    I must sound like a obsessive compulsive, but I counted 9 cats at the Alexis (5 tortoise shell, 2 Siamese, 1 black, and 1 large orange cat).

    Wonder how that puts me in the WC - maybe I'm freaking out the students with over-eagerness? Or am I just attentive?

  5. I only saw four cats-the Siamese was the sharpest looking, as usual--but I did wonder about their feeding habits. This is a little off from the "bad analogies" tag that Clint used, but I wonder about the connection between the eating habits of the wild cats and the writing learning of writers. Yes, there are the 'strays' and the 'domesticated' and the 'wild' and I dare say the aloof, but they all need food. And all writers need to learn to write and develop their writing. So where do the free-roaming writers learn to write?
    I guess this ties back to the stray writers. But, like Clint, if we try to 'feed' the stray writers, will they just run? Or do we leave a few choice bits of our sandwich under the steps so they can find them on their own?

    On a side note, on Saturday I saw a spot on the sidewalk where a cat had caught a bird. A few feathers, some bloody cat prints-I am sure there was a happy cat strutting around.


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