Showing posts from March, 2013

Writers, Tutors, and the Humanity That Exists Betweeen Them

           What do they need? Did I help? Did I give too much? Tutors often spin out with these questions and doubt themselves because there is much confusion on how to best help students or what qualities make a good tutor. Effective tutors possess empathy for tutees, focus on writers versus papers, model positive behaviors, and foster growth in students.             In order to sense and understand what students need, tutors must first empathize with their tutees. By doing this, tutors can better understand what state of mind their tutees are in, and this allows assessment of what approach may be most beneficial. On a daily basis, anxiety, lack of confidence, and the complete shutdown of the overwhelmed brain enter our center. There are many reasons students that feel these ways. They may be experiencing problems outside of school. They may believe that they are bad writers because of the red pen culture that is so associated with education. Regardless of the reasons, tutors m

Confessions of an Antisocial Peer Tutor

I don’t particularly like people. Which is odd, considering I love my job as a writing consultant. I work with multiple strangers each day, cultivating and applying interpersonal skills with an agility that few other professions require. I can’t stand people, yet I love working with people on their writing. How does that even work? This past semester, I worked eighteen hours a week at our writing center. However, I only consulted four of those hours and did administrative work the rest of the week. During this time, something happened that I never imagined possible. I began to dread going to work. After some introspection, I realized I sincerely missed working with people. Whatever it is that happens in those sessions, that was the reason I loved—and still love—coming to work. That , whatever that is, is why I do what I do. Although I may have a bit of an aversion to people in general (call me an introvert), I need that connection that comes from discussing, dissecting, reincarna

WRITING LABS: The Expanded Edition!

             Writing Lab? Writing: the process of putting one’s thought on a page, or, in an academic context, making content as boring as possible Lab: a place where people with white coats conduct dangerous experiments             Seriously, though, what is a writing lab? Stigmatized as a resource for struggling writers, or a as a place where a messy paper is magically put through a grammar machine and comes out perfectly spotless and consequently boring, writing labs are often viewed from a skewed perspective. This skewed perspective can often be negative or limited.             Yes, writing labs can help struggling writers, but they can also help extremely skilled writers who might mistakenly believe that a writing lab would have nothing to offer them. Yes, writing labs provide help with grammar, but realistically, not all grammar errors can be fixed in the span of 30 minutes. Nor should they all be fixed in 30 minutes, because student writers need time to learn about

Transcending Beyond

A paper with wonderful content may actually be a really bad paper.  So many college students are taught to present a well supported argument, and these well supported arguments are considered to be all that matters in an A grade paper. But what happens when a student, a student with profound thoughts and interesting points, has difficulty presenting his or her ideas clearly and concisely? As a peer writing consultant, I have often encountered students who could be described as deep thinkers who care about their writing, but their sentences are just too confusing to fully understand their argument.  To the writing tutor it seems like a simple argument to solve; simply identify the subject and predicate of each sentence and eliminate all unnecessary words and phrases.  However, is it really just that easy? It is easy to say it should happen that way, but I have found that intelligent students often care a lot about their writing, and therefore spend a lot of time on every sentence be

Experiences with ESL Students

This is my first semester as an ESL tutor, which has been really challenging for me. As a bilingual person, I can attest that learning English as a Second Language is not an easy task to achieve. First, the most important thing to learn is language rules and vocabulary. When ESL writers can understand the grammar rules, and they have a broad knowledge of words, theirs ideas come out more fluently when they write a paper. Second, once students learn grammar and vocabulary, they learn how to build sentences. Then, they work on cohesion, clarity, coherence, and diction. At the writing center, I have been exploring different techniques to simplify the learning process for ESL students, which takes time and hard work. In addition, I have been facing criticism from some ESL students; some of whom have the wrong impression that because of my accent I am not able to help them with accuracy. Nevertheless, the hopes to become a good ESL tutor are still strong, and definitely I am not going to g

Tutoring Maiden Voyage

            After four attempts to tutor in the writing center, the moment of truth finally arrived midday on a Thursday. I must say, I had already accepted that no student would come into drop-in hours while I was there, since my timeframe was coming to a close. In the remaining time I had, two students entered my cubicle with a peculiar request. Two relatives of theirs had died unexpectedly a few weeks ago- an aunt and her daughter. The aunt had written into her will a quote that she wanted on her tombstone many years before, but the family had decided to bury the mother and daughter under a single tombstone. The two students requested that I help them rephrase the quote so that it included the daughter. This particular situation was complex because other family members felt very strongly about it, as I was shown many emails with various suggestions for the quote. The students’ main priorities were to remove any grammatical errors and “make sure it made sense” with

A Different Set of Eyes

Upon walking into the Writing Center I was met with several good impressions. I explained the purpose of my visit to the lady sitting at the front desk and was directed to take a seat until the student arrived for her appointment. The five minutes I sat in the chair by the door was spent taking in the details of my surroundings. The bulletin board to my right was full of humorous anecdotes in relation to the English language and common grammatical errors. I was immediately impressed by the fact that the posters listing common mistakes not only corrected the mistakes, but provided several examples of proper sentence structure and ways to remember the corrections. I began to draw parallels between the instruction on the board and I what I suspected would occur in a typical tutoring session.  My suspicions were proved correct after only a few minutes of verbal exchange between the tutor and the student. The tutor was meeting with a returning Second Language Learning stu

PeerCentered Meet the Author Discussions

PeerCentered is now sponsoring a series of discussion groups with various authors of recent (well mostly recent) writing-center-related texts. The discussions listed below will be held in PeerCentered’s TinyChat space . TinyChat allows audio and video but you can also participate via text chat. We hope that attendees will have read the books and come prepare with questions to ask or topics to discuss. A moderator will coordinate the discussion and kick us off with some questions, but the driving force behind the discussion will be you. The purpose of PeerCentered is to promote and foster peer tutoring, so please invite any peer tutors you know to attend. Schedule April 8, 2013 2/1/12/11/19 (E/C/M/PDT/GMT: Tell Me How It Reads: Tutoring Deaf and Hearing Students in the Writing Center with Rebecca Day Babcock (Moderator: Clint Gardner) April 15, 2013 4/3/2/1/23 (E/C/M/PDT/GMT): Researching the Writing Center authors Rebecca Day Babcock & Terese Thonus (Moderator: Cl

"I'M SIGNIFICANT! ... screamed the dust speck." : A Look at the Marginalization and Feminization of Writing Centers

“I’M SIGNIFICANT! … screamed the dust speck.” A Look at the Marginalization and Feminization of Writing Centers             Calvin and Hobbes is my favorite comic strip. In one memorable episode, the main character, Calvin, stands beneath a starry sky and says, “I’M SIGNIFICANT! … screamed the dust speck.” He saw that his one person out of everything in the universe was about as miraculous and special as he would consider a speck of dust.             How often do workers in writing centers end up feeling like dust specks? In my experience, which, granted, is small, I have not met a fellow student who understood and appreciated the work that is done in the writing center. Most students walk by our center with a skeptical look in their eye, as if they are not sure why we are here. Friends ask questions like, “Does anyone even visit the Writing Lab?” or “What do you do at work?” After my detailed explanation and defense of the Lab’s mission, they respond with a half-hearted,

Perception and Tutoring

    This is my first semester as a peer tutor. I've learned a lot about my job and about myself in the last seven weeks. One thing that I've learned is that our perceptions color our reactions. A week or two ago a began my day with an unexpected obstacle; a young man with suggestively violent facial tattoos entered the writing center. I suspect that the tattoos were designed to intimidate, and they performed that function rather well in my opinion.        I'm going to admit that these thoughts ran through my head: What is this person doing in college? What job does he hope to get with those tattoos?       I surprised myself there. I generally try to reserve judgement on people until after I've at least spoken with them. As a tutor, I realized then, I was doing this human being a disservice. I knew that my perception of this student would affect how I dealt with him during our session. I did not want to let this tutee down, so I checked my first reaction,