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During the year of working as a Writing Consultant at the American University of Kuwait, almost all of our training sessions consisted of questions along the lines of "What are some of the problems or challenges that you face during sessions?" or "How do you deal with different personalities or characters during sessions?"

Well, the most problematic situation that I personally faced was holding sessions with unresponsive, passive and inactive students. At first, it was extremely difficult to lure them in the session and make them realise that their participation is needed, but later on, as a writing consultant, I soon realised the necessary techniques to get the student engaged in the session. Ask them to read. Ask them to write and take notes. Ask them to suggest synonyms.

Not only is this helpful, but I noticed that the consultant's body language is very vital in a session. The readings that our staff assigned us helped me recognise its true importance. Sitting across your student should not be the case. Alexandria Janney emphasised on the significance on sitting along-side the student during a session. I personally loved her article, because it made absolute sense to me. Sitting next to your student during a session abolishes any intimidation in the air. You make your student feel welcomed and you deliver the message that you are spending the allocated time with them to help them with their paper.

Many students who visit the WRC for the first time believe that we, as peer consultants, are dominants of the session, and whatever we say must be applied. In fact, the opposite is true. I always tell my students that what I tell them to do is mere advice. Sometimes when the student asks me about something, I tell them "Oh I'm not sure about that, let's find out together" just to show them that I am learning from this session almost as much as they are. These aspects within the session should really just calm new visitors down, since as Jennifer Arnold writes in her article that new students don't really know what to expect at the WRC so that can really make them feel uncomfortable and nervous.
Our job is not only to aid students with their writing, but to make them feel that they are welcome at the WRC and that they can visit us at any time whenever they need help, without feeling nervous or intimidated.

All in all, the writing center truly made me understand how to deal with different characters. Sit next to your student, get them to talk about their paper and issues and make sure that they are not hesitant about another visit.


Maryam Mofied

Comments

  1. Thank you for your post Maryam! You mentioned a very interesting point about learning during a session. No matter how confident a consultant feels during a session, they are encouraged to avoid claiming expertise. Afterall, students are consistently faced with authoritarian figures throughout their academic careers. This is why we emphasize the term "peer" consultant. Great job!

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