I make mistakes. I make a lot of mistakes, and I make them often. I make mistakes not only in my personal life or in my writing, but when I’m communicating with other people. In the past, I would go red, and do my absolute best to pretend that nothing had happened. I hadn’t totally just butchered the pronunciation of that foreign phrase. It was fine; it was cool; I wasn’t turning the color of a tomato at all. Nope, not me. Now that I’ve lived a couple more years, I find it funny just how silly I was acting. Everyone makes mistakes, and there was really no reason for me to so adamantly ignore what I’d done or said wrong. Instead, I should have tried to work through it.
However, I also work at a writing center. I know that a lot of clients come in expecting me, and my co-workers, to have all the answers and tell them exactly what to say, do, or fix. These students are dependent on me to help them identify and work through the mistakes they are making. It seems to a lot of clients that I have the best skills, the right training, and the knowledge to not make mistakes. As a tutor, I obviously don’t, and I definitely can’t, make mistakes.
That’s why one of the first things I do in a session with a client new to the writing center is acknowledge a mistake when I make it.
A lot of times this catches people off guard. They’re sent spinning for a second until I correct myself and laugh it off. “Oh! how silly of me, I miss pronounced that word!” “Oh yeah, you do need a comma there. I completely missed that, my bad. Great eye!” I’ve found that by admitting that I can miss punctuation details, or that I don’t know how to say a source’s name either, a client becomes a little more comfortable. I become less of a tutor, and more of a peer, someone that they can identify with. There’s that dramatic switch from ‘the tutor is never wrong, I’m just a bad writer’ mindset to the ‘oh, that’s an easy mistake to make, I’ll watch out for that’ mindset. The person that a school trusts to help others with writing is still human, and knows when they are wrong and works to fix their mistakes too.
This sense of similarity also helps boosts clients up. I know that I have lots of stories where I’ve completely goofed something up. By sharing how I handled a similar situation to one they’re facing, or what worked well for me to address a grammar mistake, the client knows that we all go through this sometimes-frustrating process of writing. They’re not doing anything wrong by forgetting a comma or forgetting to match tense. Instead, they’re doing the exact right thing by figuring out their mistake and learning how to address it in the future by working through it with someone who’s made that same mistake before. Even Shakespeare, James Joyce, and Mary Shelley edited and rewrote their great works. Making mistakes is a part of the writing process for clients, consultants, and professionals.
By just recognizing that we’re all human and sharing experiences and challenges with each other, we as consultants can not only build relationships with the students that come in but encourage them. It’s all right to make mistakes; you just have to find the tools to work through them. So yeah, I make a lot of mistakes, and I use them to help others with their own.
Popular posts from this blog
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
A Nearly Septuagenarian’s Ad ventures with Purdue Owl January 9, 2023 As a student, the Purdue Owl website was a source of great comfort for me. It seemed almost a tangible, billowy, yet safe and confining space; kind of like those bounce-houses filled with balls for kids. I would flit among MLA and APA and general writing tips: pulling up a sample reference page here, making sure I knew the difference between effect and affect there, and ended up by checking an in-text citation for a quote within a quote. I haven’t perused Purdue Owl’s website in some time, so, it is disconcerting to find it is completely tied into Purdue University’s writing lab. Now, you can also more readily access various sections of the style guide directly from the browser. If, for example, you want to check to cite a poster in APA format, Purdue Owl’s information is listed among the many sites you can choose in your browser. I can see how advantageous this fine-tuning is, and, in fact, I have already ma
So, I was driving to school today and as always was listening to NPR (that's my self-promoting conversational piece informing you on how intelligent and connected I am) really, I just like the coverage on the campaign and "This American Life." Okay, I am already getting off topic and I haven't even gotten on topic yet. Anyhow, the story I was listening to was about a woman who used to be a part of the admissions committee at Dartmouth and is now working as an independent consultant helping students with the admissions process for schools. For a cool $40,000, she will work with you from 9th grade to graduation to help prepare you for your college admissions process. And for the budget price of $14,000, she will help you write and revise your college application essay. So, how in the world does this correlate to our world? Well, her work with college applications includes helping students decide on effective topics (staying away from "teen angst, or th