Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A winner!

Recently at the 2010 National Council of Teachers of English Convention International Writing Centers Special Interest group Denise Calix, PeerCentered blogger won a giant gummy bear:

Congratulations, Denise!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Peace of Mind in the Writing Center: Putting the Client at Ease

Having a writing center tutor read your work can be as stressful for a client as having an instructor read it for a grade. Even though a tutor is not grading the work, the client is worried about being critiqued. He will likely be worried that the errors will be so numerous that the tutor might not verbalize it, but will think about what a terrible writer he is. Even I have had these fears almost every time I have had someone look over a paper which I have written. The client may even fear that the tutor will think that he is the worst writer the tutor has ever seen, or read. Since the tutor's role is not to grade the writings but rather to hep the client become a better writer, easing the client's fears is a particular challenge for the writing center tutor. This is especially important since helping the client to become a better writer means, in part, helping him to become a more comfortable, confident writer.

Putting the client at ease begins at the very onset of the session. Introduce yourself to him. Take an interest in him; get to know him as much as possible. Discuss his classes or his interests, especially as they pertain to the paper being presented. This is especially helpful if you two have something in common--classes, majors, professors, hobbies, interests, etc. This helps to bring you to a closer level with the client. The tutor is still the authority in the session, but he is no longer the stern evaluator or grader that the instructor will be for the paper. The tutor can now have a better two-sided conversation about the paper, rather than the client simply timidly listening to a critique.

Continue this interested discussion throughout the reading of the paper. It is okay to pause and discuss a piece you find particularly interesting or well written. If you compliment his writing, the client will often perk up and feel more comfortable about the session. If you take an interest in a topic or comment then the client will be likely to open up more about the topic. He will elaborate more on the discussion, showing his knowledge or research. This can be extremely beneficial for both the tutor and the client. When the client opens up and discusses the topic further, then the tutor can sometimes get a better understanding of what has been written and allows for suggestions to elaborate on the writing. A passionate writer is a confident writer.

It is an even greater challenge when the client is a professional who feels that his writing is not something to be challenged. That is how this type of client will take a critique--as a challenge not just to his writing, but to his professionalism as well. It is especially important to ease this type of client. The more errors found by the tutor, the more confrontational or aloof the client may become. This can be offset by compliments and shows of interest. The client is assured of his overall writing abilities and is better able to see suggestions or critiques as more constructional.

I can use a shortcoming of my own to show how this type of professional client should be handled with more care. A school principal who is also a doctoral student at the university where I tutor came in with a book review. I could tell she was uncomfortable from the start of the session when, seeing that this was one of the longest book reviews that I had ever seen, I tried to break the ice by jokingly saying, "Wow, it's a long one." Instead of laughing, she gave me a glare and proclaimed, Okay." This managed to put me ill-at-ease, which lasted throughout the session. I found her not unresponsive but rather negatively responsive. Every comment or suggestion I made seemed to be met with disdain, making me as the tutor, the authority, less and less comfortable. Of course, as a result, I felt as if I did not do my best as a tutor and as if she did not care about my suggestions. It did not feel like a productive session.

When I saw a few days later that another tutor had the same client for the same paper, I recalled my problems with the session. This particular tutor told me that she started out having the same problems with the client. However, she began solidly complimenting this client on her writing abilities and her strong knowledge of the topic as it pertains to her professional career; she told me that the client noticeably became happier and opened up more. As a result, the client also became much more responsive to the suggestions by the tutor.

Showing an interest in the client's topic and complimenting his writing certainly puts the client at ease, making him more receptive to constructional criticism. As a result of the increased responsiveness, the tutor is put more at ease as well, making for a better, more productive session. This not only helps develop a stronger, continued relationship between the client and the writing center but also promotes the ultimate goal of a writing center -- to create stronger, more comfortable, more confident writers.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Creating Effective Tutoring Atmosphere

Writing is a very personal undertaking to the extent that most writers would pass the chance to attend a tutoring session, unless it is absolutely necessary.  The challenge for tutors in this environment is to find a balance between reinforcing the writer’s self-esteem while ensuring that the essential issues are addressed. If you read a bad paper, how could you bring the writer to understand this without making him/her feel terrible about the whole tutoring concept?
It is a real challenge to deliver bad news; personally it is even harder and I am sure most of you would agree. To overcome this rather uncomfortable situation, I often commend my writers for a good paper and use personal writing challenges as a basis to underscore the troubling spots in their paper. Mind you, commendations are sometimes ineffective because writers know when they have done less than perfect work.  So while it is necessary, it must be aimed at honestly evaluating the writer for a fair attempt.
I find that writers respond fairly well when you use your personal writing challenges as a platform to discuss their challenges. This strategy relaxes the writer and opens them up to talk freely about their paper. Now you have the space to throw up suggestions pointing the writer in the right direction. I had one of my writers abandoned a really bad paper lacking direction and totally of subject, to start from scratch. She took rather kindly to the criticisms what may have appeared as criticism, her second attempt yielded a really good paper. This is the ideal atmosphere you should seek in your tutoring session; it makes your writer appreciate writing as an act rather than something they should know just by being students.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Really Long Blog I've Been Too Scared to Post Since Thursday

Recently, I found out that I have an intense fear of sharing my writing with a large audience. I realized this when I started to write this blog post for PeerCentered. As I began writing, I felt a sense of fear, which I managed to trace back to the fact that I was writing something that I knew would be presented to a large audience over the internet.

This blog post, which I feel has yielded some good results, actually started as a breakdown of the reasons why I was so uncomfortable writing a blog entry that would be read by people I didn't know. Only after writing for awhile did I realize that what I had been writing had a larger application than letting me know what I was scared of. The reasons that I dislike sharing my writing at times are the same as some of the reasons that others may feel some trepidation over presenting their work. I decided to adapt my own personal breakdown into something that I feel can help consultants in the writing center crack people who don't want to talk. Note that these suggestions are based on what I believe would help me, rather than an actual test.

I feel like my issue with presenting my writing is one that many people have. I know for a fact that several of my friends are very defensive and are not at all open to the idea of sharing their thoughts through writing. What my own apprehension about writing for a mass audience has shown me is that even a good writer, who is naturally talented and has gone through a decent amount of education can feel very scared of letting their writing be seen. Since I suffer from this problem myself, I thought that maybe I could share some insight on how to make these people open up.

First things first. If I am going to share my writing with someone, especially someone that I do not know, I need a long time to work on it. I want my writing to be perfected before anyone else looks at it. If someone seems hesitant about sharing their writing, ask them if they would prefer to take some time to revise and if they would like to come back at a different time. Many times in my own writing, I find that if I put enough time into it, I can come out with something that I am not ashamed of sharing, but oftentimes I underestimate how long that might take me.

For example, I took a literature class over the summer in which we had to present a poem. We had a few days to write our poems, and then we were going to present them for the class as well as a panel of judges. While I have never been a fan of poetry, I didn't think that I would have any trouble coming up with something presentable in the three or four days that we were given. I was entirely wrong. I ended up taking a zero on the presentation portion of the assignment for the simple reason that I was not prepared to share what I had written. Had I been given a month, I would have had no issues coming up with a poem that I was one hundred percent satisfied with, but as it was, I did not feel that I had created anything worth sharing.

The second thing that I feel can be difficult for people who are not very open about their writing is the oral delivery of their piece. I don't know if all writing centers use the same model we do, but at my school, we have the students read their papers aloud at the beginning of the consultation. This allows the consultants to analyze the information and the writers tone of voice at the same time. Unfortunately, if you encounter a student who doesn't like to read aloud, this can pose a bit of an issue. I for one cannot stand reading out loud for several reasons. First, I hate the sound of my own voice. I cannot stand hearing myself talk, especially when I have the undivided attention of another person. Second, I don't like other people to hear what I have written. While I may be able to present my piece to a single person, or a group of close friends, I would not want anyone outside of that circle to hear it. I personally am a terrible eavesdropper, and I often listen in on other people's conversations as they go on around me. This creates in me a sense that everyone around me is listening to every word that I say, whether they look like they are or not.

If this seems to be the issue, the writer will most likely let you look at the paper, but will be very hesitant to read it aloud to you. If they are having the same issues that I had, there are a few ways that I could see this being handled, depending on what kind of time and resource budgets you have available, as well as the location you are in. Perhaps the best idea, and the one that I personally would be most comfortable with, is to record the aural presentation of the paper. Let them read aloud on their own time, and record themselves doing so. This way, you can listen to the piece with them using headphones, and they will not have the fear of someone overhearing their paper. The second idea will sound familiar. Give them some time. Again, many times, they are just not ready to present the piece. If this is the case, ask them if they would like to come back later, and recommend that they read the piece aloud to themselves while they are in a more private situation so that they can accustom themselves to doing it. One advantage of this method is that it will make them read the piece more than once, which will therefore make them look at it at least a few times before it comes to you, the consultant.

The last issue, which I cannot for the life of me come up with a surefire way to get around, is the fact that some people write in a way that is incredibly personal. They write using their own life as a fuel for their words, pouring all of their experience into a piece of writing, creating something that they are deeply attached to. While these people are attached to the writing, they are usually open to suggestions, and their pride in the piece is not what I feel keeps them from sharing it. For many of these people, myself included, the piece reflects a part of them. While to many people, this may seem like a good thing since it shows the expressive personality of the individual, to someone like me who is very closely guarded emotionally, it can be terrifying to let someone see that inner person who is coming out in the text. As I write this, I am making an active effort to keep my own inner self out of it as much as possible so that it will be easier to share. Overcoming this obstacle for others is beyond me, as it would really involve a deep understanding of the writer. The one thing that I have found that helps me to share my own writing when it becomes personal is to share it with someone who knows me incredibly well. While this may not be true for everyone, in my case, it reinforces the importance of getting to know your writers on a personal level, rather than on a purely professional one.

Preparing for Writing Fellows

At The Studio, we have a program called Writing Fellows. How the program works is that each consultant who participates is assigned a group of students from a class. From our assigned class, we're given a group of students and we then look over the students' papers and give them written feedback in letter format. After the students have been given time to look over the written feedback, we offer the students a face to face consultation with their fellow.

This week will my second time working with the Fellows program. The first round of fellows went pretty rough for me but I think we're successfully ironing out the problems and making progress with the process. Although, the whole process of Writing fellows can be stressful at times, I find the the whole experience extremely beneficial and rewarding as a consultant and as a student.

The main reason why I find Writing Fellows so rewarding is the written feedback. I've found a love with written feedback because it gives me the ability to look over my feedback and perfect it. I find this very beneficial because it gives me the capability to think more about what the student is writing and to think more about what they're doing properly and improperly, compared to a regular consultation where I am given a limited amount of time. Written feedback has also given me the ability to take the time and analyze what I am trying to communicate and decide whether or not I am communicating the message sufficiently or not. I find this benefit invaluable in that it gives me to ability analyze the current strategies I use during consultations and improve on them. I also believe that this benefit will also be invaluable in my future as a student and as an employee in my career, as verbal and written communication is exceedingly important.

I'm excited to see what this next round of Writing Fellows will present. I think that no matter what occurs, this program and the experience it gives will be beneficial to myself as a consultant.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Video Consultations

Here at The Studio, Illinois Central College's writing lab, we have an end of the semester assessment assignment to understand and document our growth throughout the semester. Seeing as most of us, who aren't faculty, have only been consulting since the beginning of the semester in late August, this is a great way to discover how we problem solve and truly interact with our peer writers. The goal is to video tape yourself, however many times you feel is necessary, and watch them. You proceed to take important notes on: strategies you use, specific word choices, body language of both parties, and how well you helped them out as a writer instead of simply modifying the paper. I managed to take two video consultations this past Wednesday, one was a full 30 minute consultation. The other video died after seventeen minutes of video. I haven't had the opportunity to watch them quite yet, but I am interested to see how I consult from a third party standpoint. Of course to help assess my strengths, weaknesses, and ways to improve.
The first video consultation was with a woman writing an argument paper on whether schizophrenia is best treated at home or in an institution. We brainstormed ways she could deal with the topics and when to introduce certain information. We decided that in her conclusion she would provide documented examples of the way people with disabilities have been treated historically. For example, shock treatment or even removing parts of skull or brain. I felt that this would be an excellent clincher for her final paragraph.
I love suggesting to the writers I meet with to include some really great new information that pertains to the topic, but might be a link you haven't spoken of yet, in your conclusion. I think it is a great way to end without simply restating everything over again and leaving it at that.

I'm looking forward to video taping an early morning consultation tomorrow at 9:00am.
I will be sure to post any notes I come across while viewing these videos tomorrow, as well.


What’s one of the hardest parts of being a writing consultant? Well, for me, and I’m sure many others, the hardest part is being confident in your consulting skills and in what information you are passing on to the writer in need.
I have been working in the writing center at Illinois Central College for almost a whole semester now, and my lack of confidence in what I am doing is what has tripped me up the most. This lack of confidence keeps me from doing my best as a consultant, which leads to desperate writers not getting the help they need and deserve. For this reason, I have decided to give some tips on boosting confidence, so that other consultants or tutors that are suffering from this same problem can maybe benefit from them
Tip #1:
Before entering into a consultation, take a deep breath and just look at the person you are going to be working with; that is all they are in fact: a person. They are not a ravenous lion. They are not an angry snake. They are not a wasp that will sting you first and ask questions later. In fact, they are probably just as scared as, if not more scared than, you are. They probably view you as more than a normal person because of this job that you have, so why be afraid of them or what you have to offer them? All of us humans are made up of the same stuff, so before walking into a consultation, just take the time to look at the PERSON you are going to be working with, and remember that.
Tip #2:
When it comes time for you to go over to the table or desk or wherever the writer is waiting for you, strike up a conversation with them before diving into the paper or assignment they are working on. Introduce yourself, and ask them how they are doing. Whenever working with someone or being in close proximity to them, it is always important to get an idea of who they are and what they need from you, especially if it is your first time meeting them. This getting a grasp on who they are will help alleviate some of the mutual fear on where this consultation will go and what will be taken from it.
Tip #3:
If at some point in the consultation your brain freezes up or you don’t know how to approach a subject, never hesitate to ask someone else’s opinion. Now, if your confidence in yourself is already low, why would you want to ask for help from someone else? Doesn’t that just make others think that you are as not equipped for this job as you feel you are? No! That is just your low self confidence speaking! Chances are person around for you to ask would be happy to help. The fact that you are asking them a question on something you are not sure of would just tell them that you are trying to be the best that you can be and that you accept that you don’t know everything. It wouldn’t make them look down on you; if anything, they would look up to you a little for being brave enough to ask for help or advice. Just like the writer, anyone you would ask for advice from is a person just like you. So, don’t sit in the consultation going “um” and “uh” if you get stuck, ask for help!
Tip #4:
There may come a time in your writing consultant job where your boss will observe you in a consultation. This by far has been the time when my confidence hits rock bottom, and I am on edge about messing everything up, people hating me, and the sky falling, etc. The fact of the matter is that this person observing you is just a person, as mentioned about people above, and they are really only observing you so that they can tell you what areas you need to improve on and/or to tell you the areas of the consultations you are doing awesome at. Why is everyone so afraid of self improvement? It is really one of the best things about being human: we can change! We can get better! We don’t have to always stay the same. This person observing you is just an agent in this improving process, and they just want to help. So, go through your consultation like you normally do, and if it helps, just block that observer out and pretend they aren’t there. You would be surprised at how many people you can impress by not being afraid of moving forward.
Tip #5:
Many writing centers require their writing consultants to write daily or weekly blogs. I know that when I first started, I had no confidence in what I was writing in my blogs. It is worrisome because what if you don’t write what you are supposed to? What if you just make yourself look foolish? What if everyone laughs at what you are saying? Well, what if you help someone by what you blog about? What if you change someone’s view on a topic? There are many good things that can come out of your blogs, so why just focus on the unrealistic negative? Just write about what you are interested in or even what you struggle with. You would be surprised at where your mind can go if you only give it a chance.
Well, hopefully these tips have been helpful in some way or another. There is no quick fix to the low self confidence epidemic, but I believe time is a great healer of all things including this. My hope is that these tips will help the amount of time shorten. The last thing I want to say is believe in yourself and your abilities like the people that hired you do. Keep in mind that you obviously got the job because someone had faith that you could achieve what they were asking you to do. Never give up on yourself.

Make a Connection

What I have found extremely beneficial to my growing as a student consultant is learning how to greet the student when they first enter for their consultation. I think this step can sometimes get overlooked in the hustle and bustle of getting everything in order to begin the consultation. And I know for me initially, it was easy to start concentrating on how the flow of the consultation would go that I would set myself and the student up for a bumpy ride. But to me this initial communication step is the first, and usually most crucial, step. And learning this has been a real eye opener for me because I find myself focusing more on making the student feel more comfortable and welcome when they first enter than I did when I first began working as a consultant. And I have found that by doing so, the rest of the consultation flows quite smoothly and the student seems to be more open to speaking up and communicating with me. I just find it fascinating how such a seemingly small part of the consultation process can have such a huge impact on the entire consultation. It also has a profound impact on the student and the consultant as well. It’s almost like it makes the students realize, “Oh hey, those consultants aren’t so intimidating after all...this could be fun!” So I have found that building that relationship with the writer at the very start, however brief it may be, can have a powerful effect on the whole.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Letting the Student Practice

One of the things we emphasize here at The Studio is equipping the students in our consultations with tools to help them be able to apply what they've learned in the consultation to other papers they have to write. To achieve that end, we try to get the student involved during the consultation. We have them practice what we've gone over. Finding ways to let the student practice in my consultations takes practice, pun intended. However, letting the student practice has many benefits, two of which are that you know that the student understand what you are saying and that the student can apply what she/he has learned to other essays.

Take, for example, a student with an essay that has no thesis statement. You explain to the student what a thesis statement is and why it's important. The student is nodding politely the whole time, replying with an emphatic nod whenever you ask "Do you understand?" How do you know for sure that the student actually understands what you're saying, and isn't just saying yes so that you won't think he/she is stupid? One thing I like to do is pull out a sheet of paper and a pen, and ask the student to craft a thesis statement. If the student looks uncomfortable with me around, I walk away for a couple minutes. Then I take a look at the finished product, and we talk about whether or not it does its job as a thesis statement. The student walks away with a firm idea of how to write a thesis statement, and you are satisfied that you were able to teach someone an important writing skill.

Giving the student time to practice is perhaps one of the most important things you can do in a consultation, but for me it's also one of the easiest steps to forget. I won't deny that in a recent consultation I had I completely forgot to make the time. However, here at The Studio we are provided with an extra incentive to make sure we make that time--students are asked to fill out a brief anonymous survey about their consultant, and one of the questions they are asked is if they had the chance to practice during the consultation.

The Planning Stage

This week I have been spending a lot of extra time here in the Studio, and because of this I have been able to observe several of my fellow consultants at work. While I have seen many good things at work here, I have also noted a vital step that seems to be missing in nearly every consultation I have seen-- the planning step.
For those of you who do not know what the planning step is, let me enlighten you. The planing step is a vital step in the Anatomy of an Effective Consultation. In this step the consultant is to ask the writer what she or he wants to work on with the time remaining, giving some guidance. An example of this would be: "Alright Ben, we have about twenty minutes left. That gives us enough time to tackle two of the issues I have noted. Which would you like to tackle first?"
This stage is important because it is a necessary tool to help the student lead the way. I think that often times it becomes too easy to take the reins of the consultation, and we drive the student straight to where we want them to go. While the student would then leave the consultation happy, we have failed at doing our job which is to equip them with the tools they need to become a better writer. This planning step helps the students lead the way. It gives them the opportunity to choose what to work on, and this way when the student leaves, there is no way they can leave with the awful feeling that they did not get to work on what they felt they needed to. If we present this planning step we present options, and writing is all about options.
With that being said, lets work harder to incorporate the planning stage! It literally takes two seconds, but it is just as important to an effective consultation as any other step is! The planning step is the steering wheel, and you can't drive successfully without it.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Andrea Lunsford talks technology

In her keynote address to the 2010 National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing/International Writing Centers Association Conference, Andrea Lunsford discussed the perils of technology and the challenge that it places on writing centers.

Jenny talks about the benefits of being a high school peer writing tutor

At the 2010 National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing/International Writing Centers association joint conference in Baltimore, Maryland, Jenny talked with me about benefits of peer tutoring during the Scholar to Scholar session Brandon Alva and I presented.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Hidden Lesson

Several aspects of a writing consultation involve isolation. We isolate ourselves in where we tutor- shutting ourselves into tiny carrels with just the client. We isolate aspects of papers that need work, while disregarding things that might be only considered “acceptable.” We isolate subjects and style guides and types of writing, without thinking how all types of writing are equally important. Mostly, though, tutors often forget about the emotional needs and wants of the client. We forget that while we have done the tutoring process over and over before with all types of people, many “first-timers” may feel isolated and nervous in their first session.

My most vivid memory of this incident is with a client I had from Panama. His name was Ricardo and he was a freshman who had transferred during the spring semester. He came in with a lot of confidence about whom he was as a person, but still seemed very nervous about the contents of his paper. I could tell he was rather anxious, so I told him to set his paper aside, and we talked for a bit about his personal life. I asked where he was from, why he decided to come to A&M, and what he plans on doing once he graduates. It turned into an amazing discussion: he opened up to me about his family, about being the first person to attend college, about his hopes of becoming President of his country one day and knowing that education was the best way to achieve this goal. Most importantly, for me, it helped me realize what his writing goals were focused on. For him, it was evident that he felt far more comfortable, like he found a place where it was acceptable, and many times respected, that he was an international student. The rest of the session proceeded with a few basic grammatical explanations, and a few breaks to discuss organizational issues. He left with a paper that had several changes and ideas marked along the margins that summarized those brief 45 minutes.

The session really taught me something about writing: while I know we worked on grammar and I could search through my records to find the exact discussions of the session, what I remember most was the change in confidence. He came in, being a shy, nervous freshman boy and left feeling confident and clear in his writing goals as well as life goals. I believe that sometimes it isn’t the “grammatical knowledge” or the “organizational coherence” of a session that matters as much as the emotional change that can take place in a person. Ricardo taught me as much as I taught him that day: sometimes just being personable and welcoming can create confidence in someone else and if you are really lucky, that might be all a person needs to succeed.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

2010 Conferences

So, it's been a while since I have posted and it's good to be back.

I was wondering how many of you are attending the IWCA-NCPTW conference in a few weeks and if you will be presenting? Or are you attending any other conferences?

It will be good to know a few people on my first trip to Baltimore (can you tell I'm excited)!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Observation Reflections

My observations allowed me to better see the varied but similar methods of tutors in the SWC. When you shadow multiple tutors over a period of time, it becomes obvious that each has their own style, knowing what works for them. For example, some tutors choose to read to themselves before offering any critique, some ask the writer to read aloud, and some choose to read along together, asking questions along the way.

I think a big lesson to take from the experience is that tutoring is by no means a science. While we may come up with theories about how the ideal tutorial looks like, we really can never rest on one idea over another because two things will always remain true: there are many ways to teach and there are many ways to learn. Because of these two truths there can never be an ideal tutorial, in my eyes. Sure, we aim to be as thoughtful and considerate as we can, but a tutor will rarely hit that perfect pitch within a 30-minute period; the situation just isn’t built for this.

This may be a weird way to characterize this process, but I’ll stick with it: the writing center process seems akin to one’s experience on a roller coaster. Riders vary greatly; some can’t wait out get on the roller coaster and feel that thrill and come out a more experienced person; others may be afraid of fast machines they don’t understand. They may wonder, "Will the car flip when it goes careening through a sharp turn, or will I make it out alive after being tossed and turned and suspended upside down and then set straight again?" The great thing is that roller coasters, much like tutors, also vary in shapes, sizes, speeds, twists and turns, so the rider has many choices.

Getting back to the tutor not being able to match the style of the writer within 30 minutes: the flip side is that writers are free to sign up for as many appointments as they want with the same tutor; over repeated sessions, the tutor can get to know the writer, how they write, and what they’ll likely need help with. I experienced a similar situation with a writer who came in to me for tutoring. He had visited the SWC previously and received help specifically with his organization, so when I began helping him I could tell he focused on his organization and didn’t need help with it; this allowed us to work on other areas in which he did need help.

I enjoyed doing my observations, especially because I can apply it to my work in the SWC. They allowed me to see the different ways I could approach a tutoring session. The experience gave me good ideas about what to do with my own sessions because I could sort of cherry-pick the things that I thought worked from the different tutors I oversaw.

Anti Racism Survey

This just in from Moira Ozias, a leader of the International Writing Centers Association (IWCA) SIG on Antiracist Activism:

Hi, friends.

The IWCA SIG on Antiracist Activism will be meeting at the upcoming IWCA/NCPTW Conference in Baltimore this fall.  We have been meeting since 2007 and would like to gather feedback from participants (and future participants) about the work and leadership of the SIG.  If you have a few moments, please click on the link below to answer a few questions.  Your answers will be anonymous, and the entire survey should take less than 5 minutes to complete.

In solidarity,

Moira Ozias, Beth Godbee and Frankie Condon

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Role of a Tutor

Kenrod James
September 7, 2010
English 1810
Role of the Tutor???
Tutors play a vital role in the development and the progression of any student. Students go to a learning center to learn how to develop their writing skills and to receive guidance from someone who has expertise and more knowledge. This is where the difference between a tutor and a teacher comes in to play. Teachers are there to watch you and to set regulations on the material you learn and how you learn that material, whereas a tutor is there to guide you and allow you to create your own views and ideas. Tutors actually in my opinion, are more influential, because they allow for the student to find their own voice and develop their inner most thoughts and feelings. I know that tutors have the responsibility to judge whether a student actually wants help or if they are just looking for someone to write the paper for them. The relationship of the student tutor has to be one of respect. I think that the student has to want learn and the tutor to teach.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What Roles Do Tutors Play?

In class, we were talking about tutors and the roles they do play and the roles they should play. It got me thinking, I thought to myself, 'What do I think a tutor should do?' Thus, this is what I came up with:

Tutors: Our Role

Our role as tutors is to be the “backboard” to their “goal”; the writer’s goal being getting a good grade on their writing or maybe, just bettering their work. As the “backboard”, we let them bounce, or help them to bounce, their ideas off of us and in return, give them helpful, constructive feedback. As tutors, we are there to help them to learn how to properly edit their own papers and to give them inspiration and guidance when the writer’s may need it. Tutors are there to assist the writers learn more about writing and to help them manifest their visions and ideas, in a clear and cohesive manor, on to paper.
As a tutor, one should never write the work for the writer, and the same could be said for any tutor in any area of study. The writers cannot learn, grow and improve if you do. Tutors should: analyze and give beneficial notes on the writers work in order to help direct the writer to express their ideas more lucidly, make sure that the writers work flows well and the expressed ideas are unambiguous and intelligible. As a tutor, you may help a writer with their planning stages to help guide the writers’ ideas to transform on the page and give the writers advantageous ways to tackle their work in ways that make the assignment less daunting. Tutors may introduce strategies that work for them personally, when they write, but, should be sure to find a tactic that works best for the writer. Not everything works for everyone.
A tutor should show writers that the tutoring process is not one of heavy critique were they are chewed up and spit out nor is it one where work is done for them, but that tutoring is a helpful tool, in which people that are interested in writing actually want to help other writers. Tutoring should never be a situation of cavalier attitudes. Tutoring is meant to be a collaborative effort, one of the tutor and the writer, a situation of learning and growing, not judgment. The book mentions that the tutor should ask the writer to read their work aloud. This will then allow the tutor to take notes of things that they noticed for later conversation. I really like this concept. It, on the one hand, gives the reins to the writer and effectively makes them more comfortable (hopefully), and then, on the other hand, it allows you the tutor to catch things the need addressing and could even allow the writer to catch some problems along the way.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Role of the tutor

Collin Bakker

Reflective journal- What role does the tutor play…?

I haven’t spent much time in the writing center… any time for that matter. I think I had to borrow a stapler from there once, so I guess that means I’ve spent a little time. It’s not really somewhere I’ve ever felt drawn to. To explain, I’m not a natural at writing. I’ve spent many hours late into the night with the word processor. Fighting, mostly… though as abusive as the relationship is, I’ve never felt so rewarded as when we finally put something together that works. Because of that, I feel that I have an intimate understanding of what students are going through when the words just won’t cooperate. Being in this position has its advantages, and disadvantages. I know how frustrating it can be when even after all your work someone has the gall to tell you it’s not good enough. But I’m probably going to try and fix the paper for the student because of it. I don’t want to have to see any student struggle like I did, even if struggling a little is needed. Funny how the best way to help can sometimes be not helping. I know that stimulating critical thinking isn’t doing “nothing,” but you get the idea.

I think that the tutor is almost a deception. It’s like telling the student that there are other students that fix papers. Little do they know our goal is largely similar to that of the professor. Tutors try to help students learn to write papers, not fix problems for them. Not many hungry men asking for food want to go fishing. They just want the food.

The task seems somewhat daunting. I hardly think I’m fit to be telling anyone anything more than “it doesn’t sound good.” What do I do when a peer tells me that they have a teacher that grades papers quite strictly, and I can’t find anything wrong with the paper when they show me their work so far? What CAN I do?

Reflective Journal 2

The question asked for this journal is what role does the tutor play in helping the student learn about their writing? I believe the tutor plays a huge role in helping the student understand their writing and the best way to go about writing a paper. The tutor shouldn’t just write the paper for them they should ask questions about their style and what the writer would say in their own words, compared to what the tutor would say.

Of course the tutor should give the writer input and feedback, but not everybody is exactly the same when it comes to writing. The tutor should understand the writer’s style, and incorporate that with their own to get the best results. When the tutor has suggestions or corrections to the writers paper they should explain to them what they are doing, and why they are doing it.

I believe tutoring is a process of showing the writer their errors, and explaining to them what they can do to improve rather than rewriting the paper for them and sending them on their way. The writer should leave the writing center with the knowledge of what to do better next time and how to go about it. The tutor should ask them if they have any questions or concerns to see if they actually know how to improve the paper.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Shane Dykes
English 1810
Reflective Journal #2
For this reflective journal we are required to answer the question, what role does the tutor play in helping the student? To be completely honest I cannot completely answer this question from a writing center point of view because I have never been to a writing center and do not know exactly how all the teaching there works, but I am pretty familiar with the classroom setting writing tutor.
We all know that writing centers are a bit different from class rooms and some may actually say that they are the complete opposite, however I feel like the role of the tutor is in the end the same whether they are in a class room or in a writing center. I feel like the ultimate goal is to make the writer better. The role of the tutor is to make sure that you help in a way that doesn’t slam the writer and doesn’t put them down. When I was in high school it was always your papers are graded in two ways bad, or good. Your paper was either good and received a good grade or was bad and was highly criticized with a lot of red marks made with that dreaded red pen and then was returned to you for corrections and the feeling of failure.
The tutor also needs to make sure that they give honest input there is nothing worse than a tutor that always says your work is great and to not change a thing. I don’t like suck ups and they do not help you become a better writer if I have a paper that is rambling on and does not flow I want to be told and I wouldn’t mind their suggestions on how to fix it, matter of fact I prefer them.
I read chapter one from a book titled The Longman Guide to Peer Tutoring by Paula Gillespie and Neal Lerner. In the first chapter there are a few pages that are just accounts from people who were or still are students and they wrote about the type of tutoring they had and which type helped and which type didn’t, to me one thing seemed to always be the common issue, don’t suck up and don’t shut them down as a writer. Your goal as a tutor is to HELP and to shape someone into the brilliant writer we all have hiding within us.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Tutoring and Control and Flexibility

A tutor can do many things to help a student learn how to become a better writer. However, after years if tutoring, a tutor can get into ruts that hinder performance, such as taking on the role of expert. I have been tutoring for several years now and feel that I have things to change with my approach, and I have decided that some good concepts to remember to prevent being a prescriptive expert rather than a descriptive helper are control and flexibility. Control and flexibility are important for both tutors and writers.

Tutors need to work on using the concepts of control and flexibility in their tutoring. Taking more time to ask questions and explain would be more helpful to writers rather than giving advice right away. Control comes into play when the tutor asks questions directed toward higher order conders first. Flexibility comes into play when the tutor works with the answers writers provide, allowing writers to direct the course of the discussion.

Expertise can be helpful in tutoring if it helps writers have more control and flexibility as they write. Tutoring expertise should be used to help writers develop their own successful writing processes and used to help them think of ways to solve their own writing problems successfully. Tutors can ask writers what writing process they currently have and also explain what other strategies can be tried. Tutors can ask questions and explain various ways of solving writing problems so that writers can make choices and try to develop their own problem-solving skills. In the end, writers should gain confidence in their writing abilities because they have developed methods to control and be flexible with their own writing.

Sometimes tutors with experience can get into habits that leave them wondering whether they are really helping students, and they need to spend some time developing new habits. I know that I feel I am spending too much time being an expert sometimes. I also feel that applying the concepts of control and flexibility better would improve my own tutoring.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Revision Reflections

This post is a revision of a reflection on "What role does the tutor play to help the student learn?" a question asked in my Writing Center Studies class. As part in the revision assignment, we were asked to have a mock-session with one of our classmates, taking turns acting as the tutor and then as a student, reading our reflections aloud. The next step was to revise our reflection based on the advice given in the tutorial session, and then reflect on how the tutorial session went. I confused myself, however, when doing the 2nd reflection and went on to talk about the corrections I made in the revision and why I made them. Hopefully this can still work to show how one goes about reflecting on their corrections.

Revised Reflection

To me, the role of a tutor is more descriptive than prescriptive. I previously thought tutors acted as editors but, as I’m quickly finding, this is not the case. The important aspects of tutoring seem to be guidance and “tutoring” as it’s defined, not editing. I like this idea: I’m a sort of confidant and not some literary correction machine, baring I could live up to that! I also like the idea of working to create better writers so they can correct their own mistakes in the future.

Another part of me, however, likes to focus on and sees the value in being punctually accurate. That part of me would not mind sitting there correcting papers all day; I see accuracy in a good light, but I know it isn’t in the best interests of a writer to just help them with it. On top of my inclination towards accuracy, I see myself as more prescriptive than descriptive. Working in the SWC will definitely help change these aspects of me, and I believe this will make me a stronger editor and tutor.

In my opinion, the best kind of teacher is one who gives the student multiple paths out of the words. Becoming more descriptive would allow me to get to that point. This seems challenging right now, becoming more descriptive, but it’s refreshing to know that all I need is practice. Chapter 3 of the Longman Guide has some great steps for conducting a one-on-one session, but there is more to be desired. For instance: what kind of notes are pertinent to write down? I have limited experience with taking notes while someone is speaking to me while having to pay attention to the overall conversation. Suffice to say note-taking will be important to practice.

Correction Reflection

The goal I wanted to achieve by revising my journal was to improve clarity; when I was reading my journal to Candace during our mock-session I felt like what I wrote sounded confusing, if not convoluted. I usually have a habit of writing this way, I guess because I find the active voice to be dull, or not interesting enough. This desire for intricacy generally leaves me writing in the passive voice, I think, and in turn my writing ends up clunky and sometimes hard to understand. Some of the sentences in my original journal were so long that, once you got to the end, you could have easily lost track of what the original idea was. I like building up sentences with long, grand introductions, but this doesn’t always lend itself to clarity. The best example I can point to is this:


“Adding the fact that I see myself as more prescriptive and less descriptive, my new position will certainly be one of habit-changing and working on setting my priorities to be in the benefit of the tutee.”


“On top of my inclination towards accuracy, I see myself as more prescriptive than descriptive. Working in the SWC will definitely help change these aspects of me, and I believe this will make me a stronger editor and tutor.”

Here I was able to split the one long sentence into two shorter ones and I think this instantly allows for better clarity. The first sentence is much more direct, just stating my overall attitude. While I still have the introductory reference to accuracy, I think it’s needed in order to contrast my feelings of prescription. I cleaned up the second half of the original sentence quite a bit by creating a much more succinct statement. Its original wording is a great example of what I was initially talking about when I started this reflection: it is clunky and baring on convoluted. With the revision I was able to clean up the wording quite a bit and better organize my thoughts. Splitting up the one long sentence into two was definitely needed in order to make these revisions.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Advertising the Writing Center

Here at Salt Lake Community College Student Writing Center, we created a series of new video commercials for display both online and on our campus information screens.  Creating the videos was a fun process and involved many different people in the Student Writing Center.   The commercials are based on a common theme ("Don't hate.  Collaborate!") and end up telling a story.

In any case, rather than sharing those, I'd rather share some rather creative and succinct commercials I just found from our friends at Brigham Young University.  Take a gander:

Ok,ok, if you really want to see the SLCC SWC videos, go here.

Dear me...

Dear me, It's not about you, but it will affect you, this work. Expect that. Learn to embrace that--the fact that your writing voice ...