The following was written in response to the author’s first observation of a writing center session. The author is one of four students in English 251: Writing Center Theory and Practice.
Going to a writing center for the first time, whether as a writer or as a consultant, can seem like a daunting task. Like learning to swim it is helpful to stick a toe in, take it one step at a time, and slowly wade in carefully. However, sometimes you end up cannonballing in the deep end and just hoping your head stays afloat! For me my first observation at the Bellarmine Writing Center was a double full twist off the high dive. I can imagine a lot of students visiting the Writing Center for the first time feeling this way. Seeing the Writing Center in action did offer me a lot of insight to the stress and situations one can face in there.
The minute I walked into the Writing Center, there was a hard-hitting scenario to see first-hand. Yet, a highly invested writer, a lack of opportunity for consultants to communicate with one another, and a restricted time frame, ultimately turned out to be a learning experience for all. The first issue occurred when an appointment ended and the writing consultant coincidentally went on nearby desk-duty. Although the consultant was nearby, the consultant was unable to work with the writer. The writer stayed in the Writing Center to work on the paper and asked a second consultant to check on the draft. The second consultant’s comments further frustrated the already anxious writer; more prolonged attention was clearly needed. At that moment, the second consultant’s next appointment arrived, and no consultant would be able to work with the frustrated writer until later. The writer became upset and the consultants were uncomfortable if not upset as well.
A lot of emotions made the situation go from treading the water to slipping under the surface. Thankfully, a little talking to both sides from the Writing Center Director, and the writer and consultant taking some time to re-group and rest, the situation was peacefully and quickly resolved. While I understand that most days in the writing center are a lot less exciting, it was comforting to see that even in the midst of an intense and dramatic situation, it was possible to make it a good and helpful experience for both the writer and the consultant.
Sometimes we think something will go one way, and it ends up going in the complete opposite direction. I may have expected a slow wade in the shallow end, but I certainly got a full on Olympic routine workout. Seeing the respect between consultants and writer, the team atmosphere, and the successful techniques took a lot of anxiety and ambiguity out of the beginning of the writing consultant process. Any writer can also take peace knowing that the consultants are willing to work and help sort out even the most difficult situations. We can all help keep each other afloat and learn and grow as writers.