During my freshman year at Lycoming College, I did not believe I was going to be a student worker because I (fortunately enough) did not need to work. My first semester I really wanted to have all the time I could to adjust and focus on my studies. The fall of 2015 semester started out rough. I had lost my grandpa over the summer and I was not in the best state of mind coming to school. I really embraced my classes and huddled under the mountains of work that I had to get done.
I have to thank my English 106 professor Dr. Hafer for providing the means to reopen my love for writing. All of his assignments were general, so we could choose whatever topic we wanted to write. This allowed me to reorganize my feelings about my past, present, and future in a way that was conducive to each type of paper we had to write. He also required our class to keep a daily journal log, which helped me stay on task with the rest of my school work, have an outlet for random thoughts and feelings, as well as brainstorming other paper ideas. So, what does this have to do with working in the Writing Center?
Due to my hard work and new found love of writing, I was referred by my English professor to apply for a Writing Tutor position. So, I sent in my writing portfolio, had an interview, and voila! I was hired. I started working in the Writing Center officially this semester (Fall 2016).
I feel that working in the Writing Center has given me more confidence when speaking with strangers. It will also benefit me in the future because my goal is to be a teacher. As a tutor, I am able to help other students learn good practices for their own writing.
My “Ah-Hah!” moment happened when a student came to me because they did not know where to start with a paper. We sat down and discussed what to do when you are stuck, how to brainstorm ideas, and how to translate them into a paper. By the end of our session, the student left with a list of different topics to choose from, as well as some strong theses and a brief outline of what the paper would look like. The student was happy because most of the topics were personal or interesting to him.
Another really good tutoring session that I had was when a student came to me with a very elaborate paper. She had previously been to the Writing Center for help with the same paper, and her session with me was her last one before she handed it in. What stood out to me about this paper was how well it was written, and even though I was not familiar with the subject I was able to answer her questions and relate each point back to her thesis. We made some sentences more clear so that anyone who picks up her paper would know what she wanted to say. All in all she left very happy, thankful, and confident in her paper. This, in turn, made me feel like I was doing something right!
A few “Oh, no!” moments that most writing center tutors have experienced are:
1)They want to drop off their paper.
You cannot drop off your papers in the Writing Center. Period. The point of coming to the Writing Center is to have a conversation about your paper so that in the future, your papers will be more successful. We aren’t mean or judgmental people, we truly just want to help you be more successful!
2)The night or hours before a paper is due.
A few times this semester, students have came to the Writing Center the night or just hours before their paper is due. This can be stressful on both the student and the tutor. This isn’t the end of the world, and I do my best with the time I have to go over any major concerns a student may have about their paper. The problem with coming at the last minute arises when a paper doesn’t have all the information it needs to support the claim/thesis. This can put undue pressure on the student to include last minute research that may or may not be from reliable source.These issues could have been avoided if the problem was addressed earlier in the writing process.
3)They just want a tutor to look at grammar.
WE ARE NOT THE GRAMMAR POLICE! When a student comes the Writing Centerwith a paper, and asks us to “fix my grammar,” a fairy dies. Yes, we can help you with your grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. BUT, that is not why we are here! Often times I have students come in who are confident and believe all they need fixed is grammar. The procedure for going over a paper includes reading the paper aloud to the student, which leads to the student realizing their paper or sentences are unclear. Doing this, students have caught themselves using a lot of “fluff,” forgetting to add important information, and not having a strong thesis. When I finish reading a paper I ask the student to tell me about their thesis, opening up a conversation about the paper. In my conversations we focus on making the content of the paper stronger, while making small notes about grammatical issues that seem to be common throughout. My goal is that when the student leaves, they feel their paper is stronger, they notice a pattern in their writing weaknesses, and know how to best use their strengths!
I love being a writing tutor! I believe that the best part of my experience so far is interacting with so many different students and learning about different subjects that I may never study myself at Lycoming. It is also interesting to read different opinions on the “hot topics” of today. Some days are harder than others, but for the most part I am thankful that students are open to advice and constructive criticism. It is a wonderful learning experience for both myself and the students. If you would like to learn more about the Writing Center, you can ask me! There is also information available to you here.
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