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Showing posts from 2007

End of the semester

Well I feel compelled to write something, given that it is the end of the semester. I will, therefore, make notes:


One can tell the student who has been working on her or his paper for a long time by the state of their attire. Sweats and bad-hair-day beanies mean the student is pulling an all-nighter to hopefully get the paper done. The well-dressed student who does not have that desperate look in her or his eye is the one who took more time or (I hope this is not the case) such students just don't care.
Something or someone must be trying to hack WordPress, as my administrator account was deleted. Time to upgrade, I suppose.
The end of the semester is notoriously unpredictable. Our rush days came early this week. Now it is relatively quiet.
I am looking forward to getting back into the classroom next semester.
I feel scatter-shot at the moment.
I have a peer review to write that I thought I had finished. I understand why the editors want more now, but at the time I was under the…

Mission

The International Writing Centers Association (IWCA) of which I have the honor of being president for a week and 3 days has adopted the following mission statement:
The International Writing Centers Association, an NCTE affiliate founded in 1983, fosters the development of writing center directors, tutors, and staff by sponsoring meetings, publications, and other professional activities; by encouraging scholarship connected to writing center-related fields; and by providing an international forum for writing center concerns.
It was the work of a very productive committee lead by Nita Meola. While IWCA's focus has always been on the issues stated, it is nice to have it put down so concisely.

Room for interpretation

In Profession 2005, a publication of the Modern Language Association, Harvard English professor Louis Menand writes the following in response to an article about string theory that conotates the universe to a bank card:

If you say that the meaning of a poem is indeterminate, you are accused of posing a threat to Western values--often by people who never read poetry. But if you say that the universe is like an ATM card, you get the Nobel Prize. How did humanists get painted into a cultural corner such that everything that a social or natural scientist says that is counterintuitive receives public genuflection, but literature professors are expected to do nothing but reaffirm common sense? ("Dangers Within and Without" 10-11)

and

Faculty members in science and in social science departments tend to regard humanists as reflexively oppositional to what they do and, therefore, as easy to discount. This perception is founded mainly on ignorance. The summaries of the state of …

Two articles

I need to remind myself to reflect upon the following articles here at UWCG:

Shor, Ira. "Why Teach about Social Class." Teaching English in the Two-year College. 32:2 (December 2005). 161-170.

Lerner, Neal. "Rejecting the Remedial Brand: The Rise and Fall of the Dartmouth Writing Clinic." CCC. 59:1 (September 2007) 13-35


I found both compelling and highly relevant to my work at a community college.

More later.

Non-native speakers of English survey

Given that a whopping 47% of our sessions here at the SLCC Student Writing Center are with non-native speakers of English, I decided to conduct a survey of writing center folks on the listserv WCENTER to see how we compare to others around the world. Initial results indicate that the majority of respondents have similar non-native speaker statistics as SLCC. The few community college respondents seem to have even more. I am working with overall numbers from the last 2.5 years, however. Last year's usage was a whopping 61%. I think it has been up considerably over the last couple of years.

PeerCentered podcast season 2

The second "season" of the PeerCentered podcast begins with where we started, at the National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing (NCPTW). NCPTW 2007 was held at Penn State and was hosted by the Penn State Center for Excellence in Writing.

I hope that this season will feature more contributors. Harry Denny from St. John's University Writing Center in New York expressed interest in the podcast, and perhaps some of the people now contributing to the PeerCentered blog from the Boise State Writing Center will want to participate.

There is a lot of potential for PeerCentered either as a blog or a podcast. I think I am going to make it my priority after I finish up as IWCA President this November.

"Handouts" wiki

Recently on WCENTER (the email list for people interested in writing center work) the topic of "handouts" has come up again. This discussion has occurred previously and IWCA established a "handouts" web site committee to develop a web site that would house resources for the writing center community. I rather liked that idea, but felt that the usefulness of the web site would be considerably constrained if it were bottle-necked through an overworked web master or site editor.

Given my role as IWCA Web Editor at that time, I proposed the use of a wiki to solve the bottle-necking problem. Almost immediately, however, a disagreement arose about the academic rigor of such a site if it were left completely open to anyone and (perhaps) everyone editing it. I believe that this concern is valid, but I also think that constraining the wiki to a select group of editors has stifled the project.

This morning, therefore, I took it upon myself to try to revamp the IWCA Handou…

Boise State Booyah!

The new writing tutors at the Boise State University Writing Center are carrying on quite the dialog over at PeerCentered. It has been a few years since PeerCentered has been as active as this, and I'm not sure it ever had such a cogent discussion of peer tutoring before. I hope that it will keep up for the whole academic year and that more folks get involved.

"Navigating the Cultures of Campus: Academic Writing and the ESL Student"

Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend a conference concerning ESL issues (I've appropriated the title as the title of this post) sponsored by the University of Utah University Writing Program. Unfortunately due to prior commitments I could not attend the entire day, and will be unable to attend the sessions at all today. Diane Belcher was the keynote speaker, and gave a fine, practical, yet theoretically-based presentation on common ESL issues. Her presentation inspired me to talk to the chair of the English department here at SLCC in perhaps having English or the Writing Program Council invite her to SLCC to carry forward the work we've been doing for that last few years in having our colleagues from across the campus in non-writing fields to understand that we are all, indeed, teachers of language, and we all have a responsibility to respond adequately and fairly to those less-experienced in the English language than native speakers.

I was also very impressed at the co…

Starting up

Ah beginnings. I wrote this on PeerCentered moments ago:



It has always struck me as ironic that fall is the time when school traditionally starts given that fall is the time for crops to be harvested, the hard freeze to hit, and the squaring away of everything for a long winter. Even if late August feels nothing like fall, I still sense the hint of autumn in the way the light plays out over the land and the distinct chill in the early morning air as I hurry off to the bus stop to start up yet another school year.

Fall is, of course, spring for education. It is when students start anew and hope abounds.



It would be interesting to explore the opposition that academia (at least in the Northern Hemisphere) creates between itself and nature. Beginnings for academia, as I noted above, are traditionally in the fall and endings are in the spring. One could argue, of course, that traditional academia is quite in tune with nature in that it takes inside activities at a time when nature is least…

One busy summer

I've been a particular slacker in my blogging this summer. That is unfortunate, because I think I do have a great deal to report.

I shall summarize it, however in an ordered list, and will get back to it when I am not on vacation:


We completed our Student Writing Center advertising video. It is a bit stilted at times, but that gives it a bit of charm or perhaps just reality. The Peer Writing Advisers (from now on to be called PWAs) collaborated on it quite effectively, I think.

We have hired 6 new PWAs. Staff education begins in earnest the first week of the semester.

The Student Writing Center was the lucky recipient of two iMacs, two iPods, and a new video camera to create useful online resources for student writers and writing advisers.

We wrapped up a successful summer of tutoring.

We conducted a workshop on self-reflective writing in order to improve how students make use of it for their portfolios. It was the first thing recorded with the iPod technology and is currently di…

Keeping track

After a moderately slow June, the Student Writing Center is hopping now. June gave me a chance to map out several projects I want to engage in over the next year:


participate in SLCC's push to join iTunes you by creating audio and video podcasts that would be useful for student writers

coordinate a new push to have faculty develop new resources for the Student Writing Center
create a video orientation (in cahoots with number 1 above) for both our online and in-person response services

the writing center movie project I discussed early on the UWofCG
consider methods to record and distribute advising sessions to student writers via mp3/iPod




I've also been discussing with my IWCA colleagues various issues that have come up about publications as well as our fall agenda. We went into recess just a few short weeks ago, so it has slowed down considerably on the IWCA front.

Now, of course, what interest might a reader find in this? Probably nothing. As I mentioned in the first post, the …

Writing Center Videos

Given that I'm working on a couple of video projects (one currently in production with my colleague Tiffany Rousculp and one in pre-planning stage), I've been interested in what others have done related to writing centers. Most of the videos found on Youtube are advertisements for writing center work. There are a couple of humorous ones out there (1, and 2) but one serious one stands out in that it seems to define writing center work quite well is from Evergreeen State:

.

I like how they've taken the voice and integrated it with the image.

The small conference & IWCA

English Department colleague Jason Pickavance recently had an article published on insidehighered.com where he explores the benefits of smaller conferences:

Here’s what you won’t find at TYCA-West or most other smaller, regional conferences. You won’t be subjected to the name-badge-glance-and-turn, a move I’ve always for some reason viewed as akin to a basketball player’s expert pivot. (If only the Utah Jazz center could pivot like that.) Instead, you will encounter colleagues at peer institutions genuinely interested to meet you and hear what you have to say.

I've found that this is true of the International Writing Centers Association Conference as well (to an extent.) When I first stated attending IWCA, I was pleased that there were folks there whom I had known online or (and this increased the gulp factor) people I admired for their published work. I had the opportunity to become a part of a community (or to use more academic parliance--a discourse community.) By allowing for…

Rubber tree plant

SLCC President Cynthia Bioteau and SLCC Developmental Education Division Chair discussed the roll of a community college in general and the role of SLCC in particular yesterday on KCPW. (Click on the bottom link.) This was in response to the PBS/Learning Matters documentary Discounted Dreams: High Hopes and Harsh Realities at America's Community Colleges. I haven't had the opporunity to see the documentary yet, and will not comment directly on it at this time.

Summer movies

My colleague Tiffany Rousculp (of the SLCC Community Writing Center) and I are making a short video of our tutor alumni. We got it down to the 5 minutes we're seeking today and I'm quite pleased with the results. The movie will be shown to the SLCC Board of Trustees because we want to show them that the work that goes on in a writing center has a broader impact than just on the student or community writers who go to our respective centers. Our purpose is to demonstrate that peer writing consultants learn a great deal and are, indeed, shaped by their writing center experiences.

I will probably post the final version of the video on PeerCentered, since it is about peer tutoring.

Summer in the center

Summer is a great season in the Student Writing Center, but not because it is a "less busy" time of the year. While there are proportionally fewer students taking summer classes, and SLCC is only open 4 days a week, we have a considerably smaller staff of writing advisers and student writers are often working fast and furious to complete their assignments on the compressed 11 or 8 week syllabus. One could argue (and I could research this statistically) that we are busier than a normal semester in the Student Writing Center.

The fact that we're busy, however, doesn't deter from the fact that we get more non-tutoring work (thinking about the Center, developing programs, creating advertising, etc.) done in the summer time than any other. Part of me wants to attribute this productivity to peer writing advisers being so busy that the energy from that work spills over into a desire to do more. I believe that may be the case for some of the work, but I must admit that …

Yet another side project? or "Aye Calypso we sing to your spirit!"

"How many side projects to I really need?" I thought to myself while riding the train in to campus today. " I mean my hell! Do you really need another blog?" I've been wanting to fiddle around with WordPress more lately, given that it is the system that is currently in use on writingcenters.org. And I needed an index for my account on the Student Writing Center's web server, Bessie (there is a history behind that name that I will explore at some point on UWCG.) I've been meaning to develop my account on that server given that all my previous professional work was removed from our old Student Writing Center web site because of a change over in how the web server works and general Community College policies. I find that people ask me questions that could easily be answer by a site like this, and I want to organize my work in ways that help me to understand it and, more importantly, remember it!

I am anticipating that any reader who would stumble upon …