Today's Session

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.


  1. Zachery,

    It is exciting to meet (if only virtually) another writing center person with connections to Idaho. I am originally from a small town near Coeur d'Alene, and I have a lot of friends who went to BSU.

    Thank you for your very thoughtful post. I am very interested in the complexity of writing center work and the multiple roles that we serve as writing tutors and writing center administrators. As you mention, there are more texts than just the paper present at the conference table. We are reading and responding to so many different things, and I would call the activities of producing and interacting with physical documents texts, too, at least in the Derridean sense.

    Much of my own research is interested in the moments when our personal, political, philosophical, and/or disciplinary situatedness intersects with the work that we do with writers. I think there is sometimes the belief that writing tutors should become a type of tabula rasa when they sit down at the conference table, but I think it is important to recognize that such an expectation is both impossible, and as your post indicates, not even preferable. Who we are as people and the backgrounds we bring with us as tutors can be incredible assets, both to our writing centers and to the writers we work with.

    Thank you so much for sharing this experience with us.

    Zachary Beare
    Writing Coordinator
    Teaching and Learning Center
    University of Washington-Tacoma

  2. I really loved your post! Engaging with more than just the text student writers bring in is extremely important to me. Were you able to transform his enthusiasm into his own words on paper?

  3. Glad to know you're still changing the world, Zach--one writing consultation at a time.
    I've always taken note of your passion and I think it is always wonderful when you find that common-ground with writers.
    I'm excited about this great consultation and can't wait for my hours to start this week in our WC!


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