LAE 5370 Edit
This semester proved to be an extremely interesting experience for me because of how it constantly seemed to change my mind. I was surprised by how often things that I started off disliking about the class structure, or my own approach to it, were some of what I thought worked best for me by the semester’s end. While I still think of myself as more an academic who is interested in the research opportunities that FSU provides, by just taking this one class that takes a composition and pedagogical perspective I have a much better appreciation how the readings for one subject can alter the ways the we think about work in other areas.
As the class started I was initially annoyed by how much writing we were asked to do. I felt like much of the writing was just articulating our readings of the texts assigned and that their low stakes nature prevented any substantial work being done through them. I think you can see this in my earlier reading responses. I spent a lot of time when talking about Selber’s Plagiarism, Originality, and Assemblage talking about the theoretical implications of the article with only passing nods to how the work might be implemented via my pedagogy. I spent only two sentences talking about practical applications of the ideas Selber was engaging with. Contrast that with later in the semester and you can see that I have started to see how being asked to write about the readings was forcing me to engage with them on a deeper level – exactly the kind of engagement that I want my own students to have. Despite that fact that we read Wysocki’s article so late in the semester, and how exhausted I was at that point, I was chomping at the bit to discuss it in class and devoted almost half of my response to practical applications in my classroom and own work (which I hope has been represented in the format choice of my portfolio). Eventually the reading responses became where I think I did my best work for the class – overshadowing even my internship. This is so true that I think I will try implementing a similar (but scaled down) system in my own class this Fall.
While the class blog was interesting I still don’t think I did as good a job with it as I could have. I didn’t spend as much time as I would have liked actually reading other student’s responses and was so worried about the 8PM deadline that I would write my questions before my reading responses – something which I think is almost counterintuitive to the structure of the class and assignment. I wonder if the class might have worked better if the blog assignment was due for all the readings for a week the Sunday before – providing more time for all students to engage with each other’s questions.
The process of putting together a final portfolio has been eye opening. I had never encountered this type of assignment before and deciding how best to engage with it really made me think about the way that each assignment in the class is structured to relate to each other. As such, I chose to present my portfolio in the form of a wiki – a format which inherently shows the interconnected nature of information. With a simple search you can find every page in the wiki that contains a specific term, all of the pages are tagged with categories that link to a page which shows all the pages similarly tagged, and the ability to hyperlink in between pages and to outside websites, all demonstrate how any part of my work gives reference to and informs the rest of it. I chose to include a quote from Euripides on my front page. This may seem like an add choice at first but if you follow the link it takes you to the Wikipedia article on At Swim-Two-Birds. This is my favorite novel and one which also embraces the interlinking of information. The quote, “for all things go out and give place to one another”, is used as that novel’s epigraph (though I’ve included a slightly different translation than the one Wikipedia lists) and I think it articulates better than I could have the interconnectedness of my own work in this class.
I think that this class will probably have a greater impact on my own teaching than I yet understand. However, I look forward to seeing how what I have learned can be translated into my classroom and own academic work.
LAE 5946 Edit
Having never worked in, or with, a writing center before, the experience of the semester as an observer and tutor has pointed out the ocean of a difference between individual tutoring and classwork that I did not realize existed before. Particularly, I found that the hardest part of working in the writing center is not having a preexisting relationship with a student before you sit down and work with them. You have no idea what level they are writing at, what assignments they have already completed, or how they feel about the class that they are asking for help with. In individual conferences with students that I observed in my internship and previous experience, I leaned heavily on already having an idea of what a student’s needs were before I sat down to look at their writing. I didn’t have that when working in the RWC and was impressed with the tutors who I observed as they quickly established a rapport with their students and dove into their writing.
During my initial observation I was free to have ideas about where I would take the student, but I got to watch how someone else was able to lead to those points in a more organic way. I was reminded of how Lunsford pointed out that “nonverbal communication is present in every tutor-writer conversation” and felt that I might not be adept at picking up on the “unspoken cues” that can either “support, neutralize, or contradict spoken statements” and how they might affect my own work as a tutor (Lunsford 6).
This came to the forefront when I had my own tutoring session later in the semester. I had a last-minute appointment scheduled where a student came in waiting someone to look over a final draft for project 2 from ENC 2135. With much of the heavy lifting for the project already done I wasn’t sure where to start so I began by reading her paper. But I did so silently and all the way through before responding to her. This was likely off putting and didn’t foster the creating of any kind of relationship between tutor and tutee. I was able to note a few minor grammar issues as well as suggest a larger structural change that I thought would be very helpful for the paper’s development. However, I am worried that I performed a proofreading role and did not achieve what North describes as “an alteration” of her writing process for the better (North 12). I deeply want to connect to my students in a meaningful way, even if I only see them once, but I was completely unsure how to engage with her writing process so close to the end. Maybe It is worth understanding that not every session in the RWC has the results that we want but I can’t help but feel that I may have failed as a tutor in this instance. Perhaps it would have been better if I had followed some of Zimmerelli’s advice on how to engage with students. Where he suggests that we start the session by asking more questions than just what they want to do or what assignment are they working on. I failed to ask about her choices in the paper and instead engaged more with the paper than I did with her.
I can contrast this with my experience in co-tutoring. There we had a student come in who was working on the early stages of a research and genre-based assignment. He had only a small paragraph drafted and was clearly struggling with how to proceed. By asking him just those questions which I didn’t ask later, we were able to help him envision a structure for his argument that seemed to help him gain a better understanding of what he needed to do from a research perspective.
Working in the writing center clearly demonstrated the value that a preexisting relationship with a student has when working with them one-on-one and gave me a deeper respect for the work that the RWC tutors do at FSU. I hope that in the future I can take some of the skills that I failed to use above into practice in my own student conferences. While not an exact replication of the RWC experience there are a lot of similarities – such as the individual nature of the work and the ability to work directly with a student on a piece of writing that they have already put work into.
Tutoring Philosophy Edit
My own tutoring philosophy as evolved to be very genre based in reaction to readings such as Amy Devitt’s Generalizing about Genre and Danial Chandler’s Introduction to Genre Theory. I think that understanding genre is much the same as understanding a piece of writing’s goals and audience. Chandler notes that “genres can be seen as a constituting a kind of tacit contract between writer and reader” and that is exactly what happens when students perform the genres that we assign them (Chandler 6). I hope that I can harness this concept of genre as an anchor for my tutoring work. By asking students questions about what they are writing and understand it’s genre (even if I don’t always articulate this concept to the student) then I will be able to better understand their goals, which is a vital first step to working on their writing. If we assume that we know what they want to achieve then we risk taking over control of the paper from a student and making it into something that is neither what they envisioned or wanted. This concept of genre as also creeped into my own teaching philosophy where I hope to talk more explicitly with students about genre and help them gain the ability to understand the genres that they are working with and how academic writing is itself a genre. Genre itself is a working out of ideas about the interaction between form and content that is central to my own academic work and I can’t think of a better place to start as an tutor than with what forms a basis for my own conception of writing.
Works Cited Edit
Chandler, Daniel (1997): 'An Introduction to Genre Theory' [WWW document] URL http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/intgenre/chandler_genre_theory.pdf [Date of Visit
Devitt, Amy J. “Generalizing about Genre: New Conceptions of an Old Concept.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 44, no. 4, 1993, p. 573., doi:10.2307/358391
Lunsford, Andrea. “Collaboration Control.” The Writing Lab Newsletter, vol. 16, 1992, pp. 1–6.
O'Brien, Flann. At Swim-Two-Birds. Dalkey Archive Press, 2012.
Wysocki, Anne. “THE MULTIPLE MEDIA OF TEXTS How Onscreen and Paper Texts Incorporate Words, Images, and Other Media.” What Writing Does and How It Does It: an Introduction to Analyzing Texts and Textual Practices, by Charles Bazerman, Erlbaum, 2009, pp. 123–163.
Ryan, Leigh, and Lisa Zimmerelli. The Bedford Guide for Writing Tutors. Bedford/St. Martin's, 2016.