« Let's talk about [theory], baby | Main | I do wanna say one thing... »

Hey

The feeling I got from all of this week's readings was...teachers kind of stink. They give us deadlines to rush/delay our creative process when writing, and then require us to follow a writing schedule that doesn't suit our style or pace. Although I can certainly understand that teachers have to work within deadlines themselves, I have to agree that it can put unnecessary strain on writing assignments. In this way I could relate to the Composing Behavior article, which notifies us of the problems of trying to follow a teacher's deadlines and paper structure when they clash with your personal writing style. However, I have to disagree with this article as a whole. I don't believe giving such broad classifications to writers will help in improving their writing. These groups may help understand a writer better on a superficial level, it's not an analysis that will help in substantially improving their writing. Each case will be different, not only for the individual, but also for their assignment. For example, when I have a writing assignment, I usually wait until one or two nights before it's due to even begin. This isn't to say I wait until then to think about it as well. I usually start forming ideas mentally as soon as the assignment is given. According to Harris, this classifies me as a "one-drafter." Unfortunately, I would also classify under "multi-drafter"; I have what would qualify as an explosion of ideas, which I proceed to dump onto paper, using many many sheets to fine tune my ideas. While this is horrible organization on my part, it's also the way I produce some of my best writing. If it isn't confusing enough that I classify as both extremes of Harris's classification system, I don't think anyone would benefit from referring to this study to help me improve my writing. It's a good theory, it's just not that important.

Daiker's article on Learning to Praise is something I can agree with, for the most part. Most people will respond positively to encouragement (for proof, see my previous blog). But praise only helps if it's constructive. I would be terribly annoyed if my instructor simply gives me a "that's great" without explaining what exactly it is that I was so good at. The same applies to criticism. I can't stand instructors that tell me what amounts to "this is horrible" without giving me something to go off of, and improve my work for next time. Case in point: my photography professor, who shall remain nameless, but was an ass nonetheless, would give me horrible grades and no feedback. None, whatsoever. All I took away from that class were many slips of paper with "B-" on them, and nothing else. Of course art is much different than writing, and has a lot more room for objectivity. Which makes his behavior even worse. Not giving feedback, especially in an INTRO class, results in no improvement or productivity, just a bunch of grumpy students.

I agreed the most with the third article by Capossela. As I said earlier, teachers can make writing hell for students by forcing them to write in a style and pace that is not comfortable for them. However, there isn't really much to be done about this. Unless we go through nationwide teacher reform, which would take close to forever, teachers and their ideals and expectations are something that all students will have to deal with eventually. The best way to remedy this problem is to make a stop at your friendly neighborhood Writing Center, sometime between the assignment being handed out and it's due date. This article just made me appreciate what we do here in the Writing Center even more. The student will still end up working within the limitations set by their teachers, but we as consultants can help them figure out how to push those boundaries. Here's to the C4W, rebellious badasses extraordanaire.

Just because I love writing long blogs, I would also like to address the readings from the previous week, as a whole. These make it clear to me that there is a distinct line between consulting and teaching. The problem is (as many of my more experienced co-workers know by now...because I won't leave them alone about it) where exactly is that line? I think a lot of consulting is just going by your gut, and while I can refer to these readings and the guidelines of the center to know where my boundaries are, I will also develop my own style of consulting and know when to say what, with experience and practice.

*thanks for the tip Katie!*

Comments

Meher, you know I have the same problem understanding the line between proofreading/consulting. No matter how many times I ask an experienced consultant for advice or how many sessions I observe, I can't seem to separate the two! In fact, I just watched a consultation here at Appleby and I'm still trying to figure out how much of it was proofreading and what criteria made it a consultation. I suppose when I finally do get my first session I'll just go about it really cautiously...?

Word. I'm sure most of us are in that boat, and I think what both Maggie and Meher are discussing actually relates to the overwhelming amount of information we have been trying to absorb as of late. While we write to communicate with others, the process is ultimately a rather personal one that everyone grapples with in a different way. We should be questioning and encouraging and accepting, but the fact is, we're going to be surprised, as writers and consultants. Perhaps what it comes down to is focusing on the individual in front of us. We should remain aware of their preferences and ideas rather than try to make them "feel special" by gesturing vaguely towards the positive and concentrating on what we shouldn't be telling them. I think truly focusing on each situation in turn will help meld these many goals and bits of advice.

Not only can I relate to the things you wrote about the readings, but the concept of a B- as a horrible grade... that's something I can really understand. Hoo-rah for the perfectionists.

Hahaha, I might know (indirectly) this photography professor of yours from my friend, who was also confused about how to get an "A" in his class since almost all of the works that he praises before the assignments are turned in would always get C or low B's... -_-

Anyway, I also felt confused after reading the one-drafter/multi-drafter article, as the study spectrum is quite narrow & I have certain characteristics of both the multi & one drafters. However, I do like how the author mentions it's not the number of times we edit our papers that matters, it's the process of how we write and whether if we effectively recognize the things we need to improve on.

Meher and Maggie, you are not alone on wondering about that teaching/tutoring distinction! It's long been an obsession of mine, and it's popped up in writing center scholarship for ages. (If this is something you're interested in for your research project, I'd love to talk about it with you!) And the recurring theme in the new grad consultant training is the differences and overlaps between teaching and tutoring.

Of course, based on my conversations with Kirsten, I think she would argue that the teaching versus tutoring distinction is somewhat of a false one: she believes that good teaching is very similar to (if not indistinguishable from? Kirsten, jump in here!) tutoring. You'll hear her use the two words interchangeably, or say that she has to go "teach in SWS"--for her, "teaching in SWS" is the same as "consulting in SWS"--or maybe the word "teaching" even gives thework higher status in the academy? Nonetheless, "teaching" is still not how I describe my work with other writers because for me, "teaching" has powerful connotations (and connotations about power!) that "consulting" does not. (She has, however, converted me from saying "tutoring" to saying "consulting," also for connotative reasons.)

I could go on about this teaching/tutoring topic FAR too long for a comment, so I will just say that you can see how consulting philosophies (or teaching philosophies!) can differ from person to person--and that noticing those differences helps consultants articulate their own philosophies.

Teachers don't stink, but the role they must play sure can stink. Looking at it that way I would much rather take the role of consultant/tutor and not have to worry about pressure and grades and deadlines. I think it's good for us to be challenged to try new styles, don't label yourself as one type, then refuse to stretch.
Praise is a good thing and that article points out our philosophy of looking for errors. I agree praise should only be given when deserved. I think back on classrooms where I learned the most and praise was always a big part of that.
One last thing is to remember the difference between learning something and getting a good grade. I had a freshman comp prof at MCTC who was horrible; he ridiculed and intimidated. I got an A (shockingly) but did I really learn anything about writing? No, although I did learn a few life lessons about how not to treat people. I feel cheated when I look back at that grade. I worked hard and wrote good, but didn't learn antything new.

I've been called out... and must comment! But, seriously, Meher, you have touched some big issues and debates about writing center work, so thank you for getting us all thinking and blogging. What is the difference between teaching/consulting/tutoring /editing/proofreading? Are there ways that we support the "rebellion" or ways we just reinforce the dominant hierarchy that teachers hold knowledge and power and students must learn to imitate them (or at least accept the boot-camp-like shaming that many do) to survive? I'm looking forward to our discussion.

Katie's right that I like to use the terms teaching/consulting/tutoring interchangeably, in part because I'm very aware that I cannot turn off my teacher self completely, even when I'm consulting. I often try for the rhetorical position of "peer" with a SWS client, but I also find times that I'm effective as a "teacher," who talks openly about her expectations and encourages students to compare those with their instructor's. I also find myself saying things like, "Here's a strategy I just taught you; now you can do it." Perhaps I'm actually less directive in the classroom than I am in consults....hmmmm.

I may have lucked out a bit, but the writing teacher I had always put the focus in class on the finished product, not necessarily the process. He made very clear that different people had different methods, and instead taught largely about how the finished product "should be" (if such a things exists.

Allowing people the freedom to go through the process as they please I think fixes at least some of the problems we're talking about here, but then there's the whole issue of new writers who don't really know their best style. . . . Is there a better method than trial and error? I'm not sure. . . .

it's interesting to have this discussion in what is a very multi-draft-friendly course. i'm curious to see if the folks who see themselves as one-drafters will feel about having to accumulate paper evidence of their writing process...how useful will it be to their writing?