To me, all three articles told a similar story, Writing tutors are in a peculiar situation. Unlike Math and Science tutors, where everything is about empirics and black-and-white, right- or-wrong answers, in the Writing Center, we‘re tasked with helping a student bring their ideas onto paper. It‘s a personal process, so any amount of helping can sometimes seem like interference. “The First Five Minutes” was about the session itself. How much control of the session should be ceded to the tutor versus the tutee? In a conventional teaching atmosphere the answer is obvious: the learner shuts up and listens while they’re taught, To some extent, albeit to a lesser one, the same is true of a Math tutor.
With writing, things are more complicated. We‘re asked to help our students synthesize their own ideas, so ultimately, they need to tell us how they want to use their session.
For us, it‘s not even so much about helping them synthesize their own ideas, although we do that very often, but more so about removing the obstacles they have in expressing their ideas, That’s why the most common request is, “proofread my paper for grammar,” Grammar is a huge stumbling block for expressing yourself, and it’s natural that they would want help getting over it.
Sometimes it’s organization, though. They’ll need help writing an outline, or formatting their paragraphs. Those things inhibit expression as well. Other times, still, they just don’t understand the question well enough to synthesize a response to it, so we have to work together to understand it.
That being said, we cannot, or at least I cannot, will not, and believe should not synthesize an idea for them. The idea must be theirs or the writing will never be, no matter how many of their own words they type.
That ties right into the second article on collaboration and control. The ideas I presented in the previous paragraph are all collaborative, because they hinge on me using my knowledge and experience to further an idea of someone else, i essentially become a resource for my student to use, however, as the article cautions us, sometimes the line between control and collaboration gets murky and you can easily find yourself in the driver’s seat. Obviously, this is something we want to avoid, As educators we’re trying to help our students be better on their own, not become dependent on us. As students we should be averse to plagiarism and violating codes of academic integrity, which you flirt with every time you take control of a session, and in doing so, a paper. It is of the utmost importance that you never cross that line, at least, to me. Crossing that line means robbing a student of a beneficial experience, but worse, it means robbing them of their voice.
Being as I feel so passionately about this issue, it was the third article that I took exception to, Censorship in the Writing Center? What were they on about? Self»censorship is certainly important in here, because, like I said, I can‘tjust go around forcing my words into the mouths of students who came for help finding their own. That would be all kinds of wrong, but article did touch on something pretty interesting that I actually encountered today, so it’s fresh on my mind. The idea of “playing it safe,” I think the author of that article is clearly cognizant of how thin a line he’s toeing. Despite feeling “confident“ about the advice he’s offered, he still describes himself as “bothered” by how often he‘s encouraged that notion. I think he‘s rightly bothered, because upon close examination he hasn’t merely offered advice, he’s “urged” censorshipi.
That’s a huge distinction because that no longer falls under the purview of helping a student express their ideas, but rather stifling Just today I had a student come in writing a paper about Christopher Columbus in the Spanish Department. I‘m no stranger to the Spanish Department, nor am I a stranger to the history of Columbus, so you can imagine my surprise when her paper was about Columbus “the hero.” This was not a notion her professor would share, I could almost guarantee it, and even here in the Writing Center our whiteboard says “Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” rather than “Happy Columbus Day” (which it is, today, whether we want to admit it or not). I knew she was in danger of becoming a casualty of her Professor’s personal beliefs, as the Spanish Department tends to be full of Hispanics, and Hispanics like myself tend to be extra aware of the cruel realities of the Columbian exchange»however, the thought of urging her to censor herself did not even once cross my mind.
She thought Columbus was a hero, and she was entitled to that opinion, and the assignment sheet certainly didn’t prohibit her from writing anything to that effect I did, however, warn her. Very simply, and without passion I told her that in the Spanish Department, perceptions of Christopher Columbus are unlikely to be favorable, and that she shouldn‘t be surprised if those biases (whether justified or not) colored the lenses with which her paper was read. At the same time, however, I encouraged her, and offered her more outlets to express her ideas, and tools to more effectively prove her thesis, no matter how much 1 disagreed with it The only people who will be easily self censor, the article notes, are the unconfident, who, more than anyone, need our help expressing their ideas The kinds of people who won’t respond, obviously won’t, and therefore we shouldn’t bother.
If we believe in the concept of collaboration over control, and the concept of sharing the session, then the concept of any sort of censorship besides the censorship of the tutor has no business in the Writing Center I’m not easily offended, and certainly not offended by any opinion on a historical figure or event, however some people are, I like to think that if I was ever truly personally offended by a student‘s writing, I‘d be able to be objective about it I like to think I‘d explain why some people might feel offended, but also explain how they could better further their thesis–that is my job. Afterall, if I rob the student of the ability to get his deplorable opinions but there, then I rob him of the ability to have his (hopefully perfected) arguments refuted, and so, as Mill would say, 1 would have robbed not only him, but society of a “livelier impression of the truth.” The alternative is that he convinces other people, and maybe it turns out I was wrong, and that’d be even worse if I tried to censor him. Any educator who robs society of that opportunity, I would say, is no educator at all.