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September 18, 2007

defensive minimalist tutoring

brooks' description of defensive minimalist tutoring made me think about my sessions where i've had trouble deploying the 'give students responsibility' tutoring technique, and it strikes me that it's not always just resistance to this type of collaborative work that can get in the way. i think it's a skill to be able to work collaboratively just as it's a skill to tutor that way. i've had some sessions where i felt like the students were really good at talking out their ideas and thinking on the go, which made their sessions go smoothly. it seems like part of the difficulty of trying to put this into practice sometimes is that classrooms, and teacher-student interactions, and universities in general often don't operate on the collaborative principles that writing centers are so big on...

i don't know if there's a bigger point. it just seems that writing center ideals often fly in the face of what we're used to as university students-- that's a disconnect that makes putting all these ideas into practice a bit harder.

Life 101: The Standardized and Manufactured Version

So, let me just say that I know today is Tuesday and not Monday, but this other class I have is really kicking me around. So what I do is read the materials when I can before Monday, but since I have do critical analysis of like I lost count of the number of books, I try to blog on Monday, but sometimes it just works to do it now and even make my comments as I go. So, forgive me for the “late? response, but here it is.

Okay, so here’s what it do, I’m just gonna spit it like this: I feel that true learning comes from experience. While I’d like to believe the in inspirational stories, especially about the student with so much newfound ambition and emotion for writing after have visited a writing center, I can’t help but think that there is more to this story. Thinking about my past consultations, I have to say that I truly am lucky to have this job in order to support people and their writing. I know how it is, one brings in a paper, don’t know really know what to do with it, but just know it needs to be done.

This feeling is not going to automatically yield feels of self-confidence or a new sense of glory for the art of writing, rather for 45 minutes, I, as the consultant have the ability to make or break this student’s day. I choose to make it by listening to them, sin rodeos, sin mentiras (without loopholes or lies). I let them talk for awhile to see how they are and what they want, but I never allude to playing the role of the “counselor? like many of articles almost seem to suggest. Mira, te voy a decirlo asi, (look, I’m going to tell it like it is), these students have no expectancy of what “should? happen during a consultation, so I try to make each one as individual as it can be and only hope for the outcome to be useful and meaningful to both the student and myself.

It seems as if some of the articles or even the style guides are on this quest to find the “best? way to consult, when it really has to be up to the person(s) involved. It also seems that everything ends in a lovely flowing manner, when in reality, where are the stories about the students who come in frustrated, those who leave still frustrated, or those who simply find themselves at a loss when it comes to writing. My heart goes out to these students. I just know that the article about the students with Dyslexia really made me feel like there has to be a way to consult that does not over praise when it’s not necessary or a way not to degrade the student. All I know that is that when the consultant starts asking “active? questions like, okay, what would you put here, or how would you say this? Totally makes the student go crazy with nervios (nerves) and not know what to say. Great, gracias (thanks) for the embarrassment, I’ll be sure to come back now, is what I hope they don’t say… but what does a consultant do if this is their style of consulting… AHHHA! I say it like this, because I know I can just imagine walking into a math center, already the biggest second-guesser on multiple choice questions as they come, I, would feel intimidated by both the behavior of a consultant to constantly be complimenting me or to be totally destroying me and my work.

Therefore, I come to the conclusion that consulting is definitely just like dancing. Whether is fast or slow, one can only hope that the other hears the same rhythm. I’m really into “trying? to read people. I always use the step up, step back rule when it comes to getting vibes from other people. I’m not afraid to slow down or speed up or change styles depending on the person. It seems like articles kind of focus on “one? go get ‘em attitude that may or may not always work. Anyway, all this just leads me to thinking about how to begin to structure some the thoughts about writing centers. It’s clear that they can’t all be the same, but I just like to be the person to help, but more so to support.

As a critique, I wish the authors communicated a more simple fashion by stating that all the students before coming to the center have gone through the struggle of learning to read, write, and speak, which reminds of our literary papers to be due soon, but anyway, it’s just something to keep in mind when working with people. We are there to support and help, but to over praise or destroy, because I believe that our role is just too critical waist time coping styles when we could just do what we do best, be original and truly have the students in mind and not the idea of creating a inspirational session to go down in history.

Hope this all makes sense, I really prefer verbal conversation as opposed to blogs… I’m not really good and typing what I’m thinking in my head, hence that’s why there are phrases in Spanish. I’m blogging my thought process…scary! :D

September 17, 2007

"I wanted you to know me for who I am."

Although it is not my week to blog, I must say that I agree wholeheartedly with all of you who found the readings cheesy. I, too, Maggie, was laughing hysterically at my book while sitting outside the back of Coffman Union. I think I made a guy who was in the vicinity leave. Just kidding. He left, just not right away. I did notice all the lovely quotes from the book that have already been brought up while reading. One of them that made me bust a gut was the title of my blog, featured on page 14:

"But I wanted to be honest," Ted said. "I wanted you to know me for who I am. And I wanted to thank you."

Really? I think it's a little much to expect a student using our services to display this kind of gratitude. I mean, if you're getting stuff like this in your consultations, then you must be doing something right. Really, really right. I can only hope I get something like this one day. ;) <--(I hope that this emoticon properly conveys my feelings and body language in my physical absence. )

The "The Idea of a Writing Center" article was just too long. I understand what North is trying to say (quite clearly, in fact) and I think he could have said it in about five pages, instead of 15. But hey, maybe he's like me and needed to rant. Sometimes you just can't stop until you've got it all off your chest. Good for you, Stephen.

In other news, in my experimentation with tutoring styles, I have discovered that it's not a good idea to be too friendly or casual. But moving along...

Out of the three consultations I have had so far, there was one that really got me thinking. The student had two letters to write for scholarship applications, both of which were due that same evening. In addition to feeling all her frustrations and understanding exactly how she felt trying to meet her deadline, I felt like I was really getting inside her head. She was writing all over her paper, and talking about her ideas with me. It was great! It had such in impact on me, as completely St. Martin's-esque cheesy as that sounds. It's still on my mind and I am hoping she got everything in on time. As I discussed with Grant and Maggie later on that day, I wonder if I'm getting a taste of how Psychiatrists feel, listening to their clients' problems all the time. Of course, I couldn't touch their level of expertise or impact on their clients, but still. I'd like to think I'm slightly cooler than I used to be.

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I can feel it caaalling in the air tonight, oh Lord..."

see you later!

September 16, 2007

Center Stage On The Mic (Let Me Clear My Throat)

I don't know who this Joseph Williams guy is, but I'd like to buy him a drink. I think Kirsten mentioned in class once that a previous class had ripped Style to shreds, which is interesting to me; I think I agreed with pretty much everything in those first twenty pages or so.

What I would like to focus on, at least for the moment, are the tutoring implications here. Specifically, I'm thinking of how to deal with the "Invented Rules," as Williams (can I call him Big Willie Style?) calls them. Those are rules I wrestle with all of the time; let's say that I want to prominently split an infinitive. But someone could come along, read what I've written, and just assume that I'm borderline-illiterate for breaking such an obvious rule. That's a trade-off I'm usually willing to make, although I still catch myself doing stupid crap like writing convoluted sentences just to avoid ending on a preposition. (I think I've even done that on this blog once or twice.)

Anyway, my point: how should we deal with that kind of risk-taking in a paper that isn't ours? Especially when the writer isn't even aware that they're (and there are all kinds of fun things to say about the gender bias stuff, too) breaking a pseudo-rule. Especially especially if English isn't the writer's first language. Then, maybe it's easier to just say "hey, it's a bad idea to start your sentences with 'but'". That throws us directly in conflict with the minimalist tutoring idea, though: we really ought to stop and explain the how "this rule isn't really a rule, but lots of people think it's a rule, so maybe it's best just to follow it anyway." I could see that doing a lot more harm than good, though.

Most (nearly all?) of the people who come into the center aren't going to be nearly as interested in grammarian politics as I am; they just want to figure out how to write a paper their professor won't hate. I probably don't have the right to try to force my love of "nontraditional Capitalization" on them; instead, I should probably just help them get through it. It's related to the idea of keeping our expectations in line for any given consultations; since we can't cover everything, it's probably best to focus on more pragmatic goals.

Hmmmmm. I work Monday mornings, and I can get grumpy on short sleep. It'd probably be for the best if I put a lid on this for now.

On One-Draft Writers, Hobgoblins and Dyslexia (which probably isn't that funny)

Okay, so I am in agreement all of you - some of you don't know it yet, but you will - who think that the first Murphy/Sherwood reading is a tad bit stuffy, and chock full of odd examples and paraphrasing. The story-like scenarios found under the "Stages of the Tutorial" heading include ample dialogue that reads a bit like a script for a soap opera - well, a very intellectual soap opera about very succesful and attractive writers, who have exotic names like Sabah and Yaroslav. Some of my favorite quotes include:
-"Is this akward for you?" he asked...Sabah was relieved and grateful for the chance to unburden her feelings.
-"I can't read," Ted said, laughing. [is that funny?] "At least not the way you do. I have dyslexia. [he chortled again]
and my personal favorite theory about writing:
-""When you're in the trucking business, you'd better get it right the first time."
Whew. I guess I can see why some people come to the writing center to unload some of their personal baggage!

Okay, I also wanted a chance to finish up an idea I had last week when we all sort of freaked out on Harris for her analysis of one- and multi-draft writers. I really liked that article! And I really liked her writing style - I actually thought she acknowledged several times the small scale of her study, and that no writer could be put into a set category. As I read about the typical habits of "one-drafters" I felt like she was speaking my language - and I do think that we who follow the one-draft persuasion DON'T enjoy the process of writing as much as others - because if we did, we could write the same paper several times! Back off of Harris, geez..Just kidding.

And finally, on page 17 of Style, Williams refers to very commonly repeated errors as "hobgoblins," which I thought was a particuarly quaint way of putting it. Did you know that a hobgoblin is also a legendary character from folklore referring to Robin Goodfellow, AND a strong, dark ale? Wikepedia is so great.

Devil Emoticons

I am in agreement with Maggie. ARG. I can't say I enjoyed reading The St. Martin's Sourcebook...oh, EXCEPT perhaps, the part in "The Tutoring Process" when the author(s) claim that,

"If both tutor and writer are experienced computer users, accustomed to chatting online, such 'emoticons' as wink or smile symbols can replace some of the interpersonal features of face-to-face tutorials" (24).

This is hilarious. And totally lame. As much as our daily lives involve technology, I think it is insane that emoticons could ever simulate actual human body language. Especially if we take into account North's essay which explores the holistic approach to tutoring. North writes that in order to implement the desired "participant-observer methodology," it is necessary for the tutor to "fit into [...] this ordinary solo ritual of writing" that each student has (39).

This field observation thing is hard enough when the student knows you're staring at them and poring over their paper. If it is so crucial that consultants feed on body language and other physical signs, it seems silly that this book would even suggest fake online "gestures." In fact, trying to squash this whole process onto the web makes the observation more blatant. Every pre-teen knows that the internet is this big, colorful, ambiguous space that you can do (almost) anything in. Shoving the observation and writing/brainstorming processes into a virtual realm, fraught with misinformation and impersonators, is sort of a weird idea.

At Friday's staff meeting, I happened to be in a group with Linda, who told us that many times students participating in online consultations will--after receiving the comments from the consultant--cop out on the actual chat portion of the session. I thought this might make for a nice discussion. The lines of communication are muy fuzzy on the internet. It allows kids to ditch out on the most important part (the observation part) of consulting, maybe because they're offended, maybe because they're excited to continue writing, or maybe because they're lazy. But, when students can hop in and out of this learning atmosphere without leaving a trace, I can't see why The Sourcebook is wasting its time discussing little yellow limited faces. Interaction is what's at stake. The essays we've been discussing are centered on student-consultant relationships, so to speak. How can we force this semi-intimate situation into a bizarre virtual one that includes thousands and thousands of other people, words, stimuli, and more processes besides the paper-writing one?

This is a pretty gigantic topic. I'm kind of regretting having launched into it...eek.

Hooo, boy...

Thank GARSH I'm not one of the assigned bloggers for this Tuesday! I'm pretty sure my neighbors think I'm crazy for laughing to myself repeatedly as I read out on the front lawn. Am I the only one who thinks the readings in the Writing Tutors book are a little cheesy?? Yes, the essays have some good tips and ideas...but c'mon.

Examples of things that made me chuckle:

"I, too, can feel the coldness of your thermos." (???)

"Personal essay...Oh, I get it! Like, from my life!" If you're going to use an intelligent ex-trucker as an example, then don't make him confused at the term "personal."

Imagining North, the second assigned piece's writer, getting teased on the playground as a child for his ideas of what a writing center is. That must be why he's so emotional about it in his essay.

And in the last one, by Brooks, the image of pushing my rolling chair back from the desk, yawning, looking at a pretend watch, and twiddling my thumbs as someone urges me to edit their paper. (It makes me think "if you ignore them, they will go away.") In reality, though, I probably should've used that technique last week in one of my sessions when a grad student frantically tried to get me to purely edit in the last five minutes of the consultation...