So today I had one of the best sessions I have ever had, and most of it had nothing to do with writing. For those of you who do not know me, I served in the US Army from 2001-2004. I was not deployed, but trained many who were. I also conducted a number of funerals. This figures into today's session.
I was given a walk-in client, and he wanted to work on a report he was writing for an ROTC class. I asked a few questions about his training, and revealed that I had been an NCO in the Army. The entire session changed. It went from us working on his writing to us working on his leadership and how to be a better officer so that his soldiers will be better prepared and better trained. We went through the report, but he kept pushing me for details about what he should do as a new officer, what his troops would expect, and what he should do for them. He cared about his writing and the assignment, but he cared more about how to be the best officer that he could be.
For those non-military of you, this may not sound remarkable, but for the Veterans, you know how important it is for an officer to listen to NCOs and to understand that being an officer does not make you as important as one would think. Yes, this cadet came in to work on his report, which we did. But he directed the session to what was important for him--a passion to excel and to lead.
Now this may sound like a strange session, and it was, but it highlighted a number of extremely important points to working in writing centers. First, writing is about more than the text; it is about the people producing and interacting with the text. Sure, the report was fairly basic and mundane; it really didn't say anything new or special. But the man behind it was driven and passionate about taking his lessons and applying them to his field to better those around him and himself. Second, the writer has the needs. As tutors we work for the writer to address what they need. In this case, I was able to give him more than just writing feedback. I am sure he would have done fine on the report if he had worked with a non-Veteran, but he was able to take more. Each writer has needs, and each tutor can fulfill those needs in unique ways, which is the greatest strength of the writing center concept.
I hope you all have a great evening and rest of the week.