Semester in Review Part II: Possibility, (Another) Tribute, and Changes

Describe your experience working in the writing center in a single word.

Media Coordinator and Professional Tutor Phillip

If I described Spring 2018 in a single word, I would use the word possibility. More than any other semester in the past, I worked with students who felt extremely insecure in their writing abilities. These students ranged in composition level - from developmental courses to literature courses. Despite their "level," so many of my clients doubted their writing skills in various ways, hindering their success when writing paragraphs, taking homework quizzes, or performing research for documentation. 

Two students in the college's developmental writing program in particular expressed major doubt in their abilities to understand grammatical concepts. They felt behind in their respective classes and felt they would never unlock the "mysterious secrets" keeping them from mastering the material. What I found myself doing throughout the semester is awakening possibility within both of them. Before they could learn the concepts, they had to believe they could. While I spent a lot of time exploring various explanations for the lessons, I spent most of my time proving to them they possessed the capacity to absorb the material and succeed. The result moved me. In both situations, I often received high-fives in response to information finally "clicking" for them. Their excitement and general reactions were some of the most genuine and heartfelt expressions I've ever seen. Of course, I was pleased by the fact that they had journeyed from not understanding comma splices or pronoun/antecedent agreement to mastering those subjects, but more than that, I was profoundly affected by the fact they had learned to believe in themselves and in their own abilities. That transformation - that belief - will be what continues to take them further and further, and I'm humbled to have been a small part of it.

On the other end of the writing spectrum, I worked with a student who has been receiving my help for a few semesters. She has always been a strong writer, and at this point, she is advanced in both skill and understanding. This semester, however, she faced literary analysis assignments for the first time, causing her to lose much of the confidence she had built over the past year. All of a sudden, she second guessed her ability to craft thesis statements, solid arguments, and cohesive paragraph flow. Before we could even tackle the nuts and bolts of her papers, I had to remind her that she was well-equipped to handle these new challenges. I had to remind her that success was indeed possible. Once she again felt secure in her skills, we were able to look at her questions and issues. In her situation, self-doubt was the biggest factor hindering her writing, and seeing her overcome it was nothing short of inspiring.

Regardless of skill level or experience, writers face doubt and insecurity. This semester, more than any other, showed me that instruction often must start with awakening possibility before moving onto explaining concepts. I am proud to have been part of these students' journeys through conquering more than just writing obstacles. 

Write a tribute to a fellow tutor - what do you admire about his or her tutoring style?

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Peer Tutor Tori

I admire all of my fellow tutors and to be among them in a professional environment is an honor. The fellow Stormtutor I find myself interacting with the most is Ronnie. Ronnie is a lovable, fun character who intoxicates anyone she meets with giggles and happiness. Literally, she is a walking cupcake, but what I admire about her is how she incorporates her bubbly personality into her tutoring. Sitting across from her during most of my works days, I get to experience this rarity and find myself giggling along with her and her student, and I am not even in the session! She is incredible at allowing students to find their own errors rather than giving their assignment to them on a silver platter.

What I admire the most, though, is watching the student’s stress and anxiety vanish during her sessions. Ronnie’s unicorn of a personality and attitude helps students relax and, frankly, I believe it is the most important quality to have when taking a job such as tutoring at The Writing Center. Her students enjoy her so much they set appointments with her - and only her.  It is rather heart-warming to see how much she influences students to visit The Writing Center or make them exclaim how much she has helped with their writing techniques and assignments.

I can only strive to be as great as she is in her sessions.

Reflect on your career in the center – how was your experience this semester different from past semesters?


Professional Tutor Colleen

This spring semester was not that different from fall, but it was worlds away from my first spring semester at Wallace three years ago. When I started, the center was still very new and lacked a strong identity.  All of the tutors, myself included, likewise struggled to find our own sense of our roles. Training staff meetings emphasized that tutoring should be non-directive and focused on big-picture problems, but my tutoring days rarely fit that model.

I spent the vast majority of sessions in my first three semesters working with developmental students both because I assisted with a number of developmental labs, and because I  had a good rapport with the primary developmental instructor who would send me students directly. Many of these tutoring sessions centered on sentence structure, comma use, and correcting fragments. Sometimes students came with a draft of a paragraph to improve, but often these sessions were dedicated to review or re-teaching material. Instead, I came up with many pocket examples to illustrate concepts, drew on everything I had learned teaching at struggling public schools, and had a large file of short grammar exercises I could run through with students. 

About midway through this semester, I had a day with three hour-long appointments in a row on poetry literary analysis papers.  I thought to myself at the end of those sessions that this was the kind of day my original training was designed for, and that this might have been the first day in three and a half years of tutoring where all of my sessions really resembled “textbook appointments” focused on refining established skills. In my first few semesters, I would have breathed a sigh of relief at having a stretch of appointments like this where I could do everything “right” and focus almost entirely higher-order concerns.

At this point, I can ironically note change of pace presented by a day like this, but I have a much better sense of just how broad a tutoring tool chest needs to be and of the flexibility the job demands above all else.

Soon-to-be former Stormtutor Atima is hard at work on something special. Stay tuned!