Wayne Fike / Special to Viewpoints
May 15, 2014
Katherine Schmidt, director for Western Oregon University writing center, gave a lecture to incoming students a few years ago. She had to explain what its writing center does and how it helps students earn better grades. She began her part of the presentation far differently than she had in the past. “We’ve all undoubtedly been involved in a relationship or two.” Schmidt said. This one comment captured the attention of the entire audience and kept their attention throughout the discussion that followed.
Schmidt went on, “let’s say that one day your partner says to you, ‘In case you haven’t noticed, the romance is gone from our relationship. I’ve decided I want you to write me a love letter, and I want it by Friday,’” Schmidt said. This one sentence spurred a debate and conversation with students like no other. The students agreed with her that if the lover had to ask, no matter what the outcome of the letter, good, bad or indifferent it would in fact not rise to the occasion and expectation. She continues, “Let’s go back in time, for a moment. You observe your partner’s frustration, and you’re aware that the magic has taken a dive. So, you decide to sit down and write a love letter for him … His response doesn’t look anything like the first time around,” Schmidt said.
A few stories have appeared in Viewpoints the last couple of months which shed a less than optimal light on the writing and reading center. Life sometimes does not work the way we want it to, and good intentions do not equate with the expectations we put into our endeavors. I thought, as a student and now as a writing tutor trainee, it might be interesting to shed a little bit of a different take on the writing center.
If you are currently enrolled in an English composition course, you probably know that once a week, you have to spend an hour in the writing center. I spend 3-5 hours per week in the writing center as well, but from a different perspective. (English 4 is the Writing Center’s Tutor training course) The class is usually pretty small, ten or so students semester. The current English 4 course has six students in it, including myself. During the semester we intern in the writing center to help out other students with their English and writing skills.
You might find yourself asking, what’s that got to do with writing a love letter to my professors? During the spring semester, tutors in the writing center are available to students Monday through Friday by appointment, which can be booked online. The web address to make an appointment is riverside.mywconline.com. We can assist writing students to improve their papers significantly. To be a tutor in the writing center, completion of English 1A is mandatory in order to qualify to take the training course. All the tutors know the writing process and we deal with it on a daily basis. We know the tricks of writing, and how to herd a student down the right path to a more successful paper.
Another route that a student could take to improve their paper is by walk-in. Appointments always come first, but if the tutor has cancellations, or has no appointments, we can see students who walk in the door seeking help.
You might be reading this article and thinking “I’m not in an English course, but I do have a history paper due here soon.” Great! There is a way for any discipline’s students to get writing help, no matter if you’re in an English course or not. Simply fill out a short form, have it signed by an instructor or counselor, and you can register for ILA-800 that has no cost to the student and renders no units. You will be given a registration code to add. Any student can get an ILA-800 from Denise Kruizenga-Muro, the director of the WRC.
Katherine Schmidt made the best connection to show students the relationship between student and professor. If you remember, I told you about a lover who had to ask for a love letter and one that did not. In the instance the lover had to ask for the letter, all the students in the audience agreed the dissatisfaction was due to having to ask for the letter. Conversely, the letter that was written back in time, and prior to the request being made had quite a different reaction. Why? Again, the students all were in agreement. Because it was not asked for, and it was not expected.
Students who wait to get a poor grade and see ‘go see tutoring’ on a paper are on the receiving end of that request. Those students who go to tutoring on their own accord, without having to be told or asked, are being proactive with their own grades. Schmidt explained it in this fashion, “Imagine, for a moment, what it’s like for a professor to receive a paper which has an unsolicited Writing Center confirmation slip attached—there was no prompting. As a professor myself, I can testify to the fact that it’s much like finding a surprise…” Students who are proactive, who go and see tutors without being prompted by their instructor and submit the tutoring slip with their papers are actually writing love letters to their instructor.
Will you be a student that waits to be prompted? Or would you rather surprise your instructor with a love letter of your own?