Hello fellow Writing Studio consultants,
As we enter October, many of us “tutors” have now had ample experience working in the Writing Studio and assisting a variety of clients on their individual projects. Although the first couple of weeks may have been a bit intimidating or challenging, I hope that many of you have similarly found your time in the Studio to be valuable and rewarding as I have.
To provide a quick background of myself, I am a new M.A. graduate student here at the University of South Florida majoring in English Literature. In addition to working in the Studio, I am also teaching an FYC class. Although these positions vary greatly in terms of specific instructional strategies, both ultimately have a goal of assisting others in improving their writing and becoming better writers overall.
In terms of what I have found to be particularly serviceable as a new Writing Studio consultant, I would first have to say that our handout resources are of incredible use. After intaking the contents of the session and determining what the client and I will be working on, I begin many of my sessions with grabbing a relevant handout. Not only does this provide clients with a valuable item they can use during the consultation and beyond, but it also puts a sense of agency into their own hands and encourages them to improve their overall writing skills (not just a specific issue with a certain project). There have been some instances of me not being sure what an assignment was or where I could find information on a subject/format; some examples have included composing a professional memo and working with AAA style. However, simply letting the writer know that we can investigate the issue together by looking up resources online has proved to be a stress-free, efficient way of solving problems like these.
Among many of the things that I’ve learned in my first month or so here, remembering to let the clients remain the true “writers” of their piece has been one of the most important lessons. After being observed, I realized that I would sometimes invest a little bit too much energy and personal writing style into someone’s work, while simultaneously doing more talking than listening. In order to improve in these areas, I am beginning to understand that allowing for some “quiet time” is important. Many times when we discuss a topic or provide some guided questions/feedback to our writers, we need to remember that it takes at least several seconds for the wheels in their brain to turn and process that information. Allowing a moment of breath and silence to pass can help the client develop his or her own ideas and provide the time necessary to do so. Finally, I also find it valuable to keep a sharp eye on time. When I am approaching the 45-minute mark of our session, I always try to ease the consultation to a close so that there is a couple of minutes to re-cap what we discussed and our plans moving forward. This act really seems to help the writer reflect on his or her progress and feel prepared in what steps to take next.
Although I am becoming much more confident in my role as a Writing Studio consultant, I sometimes do feel stressed about doing my best and making that “difference.” Even presently, I occasionally feel a little nervous walking up the Library steps to the Writing Studio because I know that my role here as a consultant is an important one. I ask myself: “How will I do today? Will I be well-prepared? Will I not know a subject or leave a client feeling unfulfilled in their understanding or development of a writing project?”
But these questions, while normal and understandable, are not productive. We need to realize that each and every day, we continue to learn and grow with our writing and consulting just as much as our clients do. I find it helpful to remind myself to stay in a confident mindset before entering the Studio and telling myself that I “will” do a great job today and make that important connection with my tutees. Aside from our interactions with clients, saying hello and greeting my fellow consultants is also a very encouraging experience. I find it fun, helpful, and cathartic to take a couple moments to ask how others are doing, what is working/not working in their own sessions, and build those essential relationships. It makes my time in the Studio that much more enjoyable.
One of the major challenges that I have personally faced as both a Studio consultant and teacher is again the issue of being directive/non-directive. As a first-time FYC instructor, I am forced at times to take a firm hand and quite literally “tell” my students what to do on a particular project or written homework assignment. Yet in the Writing Studio, I need to wear a different hat; I am not a “teacher” or “authority figure,” but rather a peer working with the client to help guide him or her in improving their piece. Taking a moment to breathe, focus, and remember my place and position enables me to realize where I am, what role I am conducting, and how best to accomplish my goals in that role.
A second challenge that I continue to face is dealing with some clients who come in and simply want me to “fix” their paper, especially in terms of grammar, diction, and syntax. The best strategy I have found is to kindly but plainly tell them our Writing Center policies: namely, that we are not an editor shop. I state that I am happy to read their paper with them and focus on the higher order concerns during our discussion. I also find it helpful to point to specific lower order resources online (like Grammar Girl) so that they can begin correcting their own work (arming them with self-help writing skills in the process) and discovering problematic patterns.
Ultimately, I feel that our time in the Writing Studio is worthwhile, helpful, and constructive, fellow Writing Studio consultants. Yes, we may have certain sessions or days in which we feel we have not made a particularly effective impact on writers, but I think it’s important that we look to all of those great days that we have. Let’s keep in mind as well all of the clients who specifically request us again because they found our feedback useful, supportive, and relevant. Best of all, we are in fact enabling ourselves to become better writers as we do the same for others. Here is to a successful remainder of the semester!
By Ryan Arciero, MA in Literature