April 21, 2021
My first year at the writing centre has taught me how to create a space where students feel free to share their writing struggles. As I grew into my role as a writing tutor, I learned how to breakdown the writing process and make it palpable and understandable for others. After, I learned how to clarify the writing process and I realized that many students struggle to share about the things they are specifically struggling with, or they assume that I am just there to fix their writing.
These experiences made me self-reflect—as I wondered why I am comfortable pulling my writing a part. I realized that my experiences having my mom edit my writing as a child taught me that sometimes the messier the editing process gets, the stronger the finished product will be.
Yesterday, I worked with a student who lived in China and English was her second language. As we worked together on the word order of her sentences, I realized that the job of editing her work is uniquely difficult for her, as so much of my editing comes from hearing the mistakes. Yet, I hear the mistakes because I was read books in English as a child and continue to read. So, as I pull my own writing a part, I have confidence that I can work it back together.
In Muriel’s article “Theory of Reality: The Ideal Writing Center(s),” he describes the writing centre or writing lab—as he calls it—as “an environment especially conductive to case-study research, to research focusing on individual differences among writers” (6). Within this type of environment, students arrive at “a friendly support place. . . and not a tightly controlled classroom” (6). Chaos, Muriel appears to believe, is a key part of the learning process as the students are free to make mistakes.
Many of the students that I worked with this semester, were very concerned that their writing and grammar needed to be perfect. Following Muriel’s ideas, the writing centre should be a place where learning can get messy—where sentences are broken down and reworded and the student understands why. Muriel’s ideas felt tangible to me, as I worked with a student over the course of the semester, who only focused on perfecting her writing and not learning from prior mistakes. Her focus made it difficult to challenge her preconceptions around writing—for instead she focused on making the fewest grammar mistakes as possible. As I tutored her, I wish I could have helped her to focus more on improving her sentence structure and given her tools to make her a better writer in the future.
According to Muriel, “Ideal writing labs don’t threaten or intimidate students by being too quiet, too impersonal” (6), instead they are welcoming and hospitable. Although, the writing centre was over zoom, I tried to create friendly and welcoming space for students to feel open to share their struggles and gain insight through open conversations.
Harris, Muriel. “Theory and Reality: The Ideal Writing Center(s).” The Writing Center Journal, 5/6, no. 2/1, 1985, pp. 4–9. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/43441803. Accessed 14 Apr. 2021.