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I recently attended the National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing, NCPTW. Members of my Writing Center Studies class were presenting on high school and university writing center collaborations. When it came our time to present on Saturday morning, I was nervous because I did not know what to expect. I had never attended a conference, nor had I presented in front of professionals. Thankfully, our presentation went well. Because we presented at 7:45am, I had the rest of the day to attend presentations. I attended five sessions, but there was one in particular that stood out to me, Negative Emotion in the Writing Center: Writer Perception and Tutor perception. This session focused on the emotional concerns students have with coming to the writing center, during their scheduled appointments, and when leaving the writing center. It also focused on achievement emotion and how that related to the actual activity: writing the paper. The presenters stated that “Achievement outcome emotions are either anticipatory-associated with the expected outcome, before it happens, or retrospective-associated with the outcome after it has happened.”
I liked this session in particular because we were able to discuss in small groups the emotions we observe and underlying issues our students may be having. We discussed the research and how it showed that the number one emotion associated with achievement was anxiety. When discussing with the group, I was able to pinpoint specific students in my mind that exemplified those emotions. In our writing center, we are embedded tutors and meet with the same students for 14 weeks so I am familiar with the students and their progress. I know what makes them anxious or angry during their sessions. I ask them to come to the writing center ready to work with questions to ask. The only time I am presented with a student that is anxious is usually when they don’t understand the expectations of the professor or the directions of the paper itself. This is where it becomes beneficial to be an embedded tutor. Because I attend class once a week, I hear the directions and expectations from the professor. I take detailed notes during class so I am able to supply the student with that information in a session. I feel I am a valuable resource that is provided by the university to lessen that anxiety when it comes to writing. That’s why I can’t help but wonder, why do some students not come to sessions?
Although I have attempted to explain what I do as a writing fellow several times, there are still some students that just don’t understand my role. The students that choose to meet every week understand that I can be used as a valuable resource. When they attend sessions and come prepared, they will leave with something accomplished. On the other hand, there are those students who feel like they don’t need me. Those who choose not to meet or rarely meet usually exemplify anger and anxiety toward writing so associate that with the writing center. When I first started the program, I heard things like “I don’t understand why I have to be here,” or “I know how to write, I don’t need your help.” These students were not directly mad at me but mad at the assignment and I was the only person there to listen. Students were angry because of the paper guidelines or lack thereof. Students don’t like strict guidelines but at the same time they often don’t like open ended prompts. In every situation I think it is up to the tutor to help eliminate the negative emotions the student is feeling. There is a strategy for each student; you just have to find what works. At the end of each session I always ask my students, “Do you feel better than you did coming into the session?” I usually get a positive response and when that happens, I have done my job.