At once, I am convinced that the writing consultation is unlike anything I have participated in before, and yet, there is not an aspect of it that is unfamiliar. At the risk of sounding reductive, obvious, or trite, the writing consultation is about people. That is to say, for all the tutoring strategy and theory, we sit down to a person. The pretext for the writer and I taking time out of our day to sit together is, more often than not, grammar. But the writing consultation is hardly about grammar, because we simply do not proofread. Instead, contrary to popular belief (or demand), we are committed, as we say, to improving the writer rather than the single piece of writing they visit with.
As I said before, the writing consultation is, personally, a novel experience. I’ve never tutored in a professional capacity before. I feel a unique swell of responsibility for the writer who enters the Writing Center seeking my help. But I am reminded that I’ve helped my sisters’ with all sorts of homework over the years. I’ve discussed interpretations of a professor’s essay prompt with classmates. I’ve trained retail employees in standard operating procedures. I’ve participated in in-class peer editing sessions. I’ve empathized with and eased friends’ anxieties and burdens. All of these experiences are parallel versions of the tutoring experience. The most underlining characteristic is that I’m helping people from a place of genuine caring.
If I have learned anything from my training, it’s that I’m not rebuilding the wheel. I have been training all my life how to interact with people. What’s more, I am still learning. Every single person is a new case study, but I’m not starting over from scratch every time. I’m backed by the sum of my experiences, and suddenly nothing is irrelevant and everything matters. The assignments might be different – the subject matter, the format – but past experience credits my expertise in muddling through. I cannot deny that I have, up to this very moment, coped. The writing process necessitates coping because it demands persistence. It’s ok if we don’t know an answer because we model coping behaviors when we scramble to find the answer. The theory and strategy isn’t provided to replace my own intuition. We interact with people with that standard of awareness and sensitivity to dignities that we owe to every writer. The articles and essays shake loose those subconscious tendencies and instinctual behaviors that I have developed, person after person, case study after case study, and have served to facilitate civil and compassionate human interactions from a place of genuine respect.
My conduct here at the Writing Center, adheres to a principle that foregrounds the dignity of the individual, be it writer, other consultant, or Writing Center administrator. The consultations I provide are not only informed by the expertise I have developed along my own academic path, but also by my intuition, which has its roots in empathy and common-sense, as a life-long learner.
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