November 28, 2021
During this semester working at the Writing Centre, I learned so much more than I thought I would. Through participation with the students I was working with, I picked up on new techniques, tips, and tricks for becoming a better writer and systematizing my own writing process; I am sure that I learned as much from them as they did from me. However, it is not this semantic or technical knowledge that I value most. Rather, there were two discoveries that changed my beliefs and how I will interact with others in the future.
My first interactions with students were rough, awkward, and unsynchronized—or at least far more so than my later ones. Surely some of this difference can be explained by a development of confidence, but I believe something less normative occurred as well. During my first sessions I was trying to “fix” the person’s writing. The student would not have come in for a session if it were not broken, right? “Fixing” the person’s writing consisted of shoving their writing into my mold, cutting off the jagged edges so that it would fit more easily, and, in the process, dismissing the student’s individuality. It was the communicative conflict that arose from this deindividuation process which produced the unsynchronized and awkward sessions with students. Once I learned to listen to the student’s ideas without preexisting ideas of how their writing should be, my sessions turned in to a dance, and the students were able to show off their own moves.
In one of my psychology courses this semester, I learned about a concept which helped me to be more empathetic towards students from the lower end of the ability distribution. Injunctification, an internalization of the naturalistic fallacy, is a cognitive process in which one will perceive another’s less privileged position as justified, regardless of the reason for the position; that is, they see what is as what should be. This concept helps to understand why minority groups are perpetually underserved in our society, and it also helps me to understand my faulty perceptions of some students at the beginning of my time at the Writing Centre (Kay et al., 2009). I would become irritated with students who were struggling, and I would hold them with disdain—as if they deserved their lack of ability. I now understand the fallacious cognitive biases which predispose me to that perception.
Working at the Writing Centre has allowed me to work with people I may have never met in environments that I may have never otherwise been in. This stretched me, and to accommodate the challenge I had to become more than I was. In the process I learned to listen to people better so that they can express their originality, and I learned to not look down on the misfortunate for their undeserving position. I hope that I can propagate this wisdom to others who will use it empathetically.
Kay, A. C., Gaucher, D., Peach, J. M., Laurin, K., Friesen, J., Zanna, M. P., & Spencer, S. J. (2009). Inequality, discrimination, and the power of the status quo: Direct evidence for a motivation to see the way things are as the way they should be. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97(3), 421–434.