I was scared when I started consulting. But like, for real. How was I, a junior Communication major, supposed to help undergrads and grads of all majors with any part of their writing? What if I didn’t have the words to say? Or worse, what if I told them the wrong thing?
And then I just sucked it up and did it. And loved it. Scared freshmen with English 104 rhetorical analyses. International grad students working on their electrical engineering dissertations. Group projects and presentations and resumes and personal emails. I went to each session and gave myself to the cause: to help better communication and writing. I learned two major lessons: 1. teaching doesn’t have to be scary and 2. I love it.
Teaching seemed like the one career choice I never gave any thought to. (In truth, there are many career choices I’ve never considered; never have I ever had a desire to be an astronaut, for example). My best friend was on track to become a teacher and I always thought: that’s perfect, she can do that, and I won’t.
But something happened to me when I started working at the Writing Center. I found myself genuinely concerned with others’ learning. I felt responsible to share with others the information I had acquired over the years. And I realized that maybe not everyone knows how to effectively use a comma or organize a research paper. Maybe not everyone knows how to write a thesis. I went from feeling like I had nothing to give in a session to looking forward to using the resources I have been given.
Giving classroom workshops only furthered my desire to teach others. I guess I never understood the point of speech class; my understanding was that one gives a speech in order to give a speech. What I didn’t realize was that a speech is used to convey information to an audience who needs it. Standing in front of a class and talking about the writing process, or how to avoid plagiarism, does have a significant purpose. It becomes my responsibility to give that information over to others. Learning that lesson took an enormous amount of pressure off and led me to really enjoy presenting. Through these workshops, I have fully realized my passion to stand in front of a class and teach.
Working at the Writing Center has taught me I don’t need to (and can’t) know everything in order to teach others. Maybe that was the one roadblock I needed to break through in order to fully consider this career path. I am not afraid now to admit that I still need to ask for help in consultations and that I don’t have all the answers. Even more, I have realized that I can learn from the clients I serve! Learning truly is a two-way street.
Now when I stand in an elementary school classroom, I get a sense of my future, not just my past. I can’t wait to use what I’ve learned at the Writing Center to help others learn. I’m sure I’ll be nervous like I was when I first started consulting. But now I know that that’s where I’m supposed to be. Time to use what I’ve been given.
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I have posted a poll in the IWCA forums: IWCA Forum: Peer Tutor => What do we call ourselves: the poll! It is a part of an earlier discussion that kind of petered out about the titles used for writing center workers. Please take a moment and vote! If you don't have an account on the forum, you can register for one by clicking on the "Register" link (next to the rocket icon in the top-right of the page.) Don't forget to state your institutional affiliation when you request and account. (That's how the IWCA Forum keeps out spam accounts.)
By Lori Brock
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