The Writing Center is full of wonderful tools that should be utilized by writers at any stage of the writing process and at any grade level. Despite knowing how helpful the tutors in the Writing Center are, many students refuse to walk into the room and ask for the assistance they need. What is it that holds students back? Fear, mostly.
It may come as a surprise, but many of us that work in the Writing Center understand this fear on a personal level. I was an undergraduate student here at EIU and not once did I enter the Writing Center even though it was in the same hallway as all of my classes for two years. My fear of being judged and thought of as unintelligent by a room full of graduate students kept me from seeking help with my work no matter how badly I needed it. My fear was irrational, but knowing that as fact did not change how consuming it was.
I was a transfer student from not only another school, but also an entirely different major. Writing well was not something I had ever truly concerned myself with, and I was never taught to think critically, which is an important skill for any postsecondary-education student. Moral of the story, I was extremely unprepared. I had numerous assignments where I had to pick an essay topic from a list of 5-10 ideas that the instructor had handed out. I had absolutely no idea which one to pick or why I should feel inspired by one over all the others. This time of confusion and indecision would have been a great time to enter the Writing Center. I would have walked in, given my information, and met with a tutor that was not only willing to help me, but excited about doing it. The session would have likely gone something like this:
Hey, how are you doing today?”
“I’m doing okay, struggling with this assignment a little bit though. I have to pick a topic from this list of ideas and then write a close-text analysis. I don’t know what topic to pick and I don’t know what a close-text analysis is.”
“Okay, I would love to help you out with that. Can I take a look at the list you got? ...Now that I have seen the list, let’s talk about what the assignment is and go from there. I struggled the first time I had to write a close-text analysis, too. This is my understanding of it….”
This would have been the start of a very beneficial 30-minute session. The tutor would have helped me understand what a close-text analysis was and then, time permitting, asked me about the topics and if I had any ideas about what I wanted to accomplish with this paper. Being asked these questions is important. The environment is less stressful than if I were to take these concerns to my professor. My professor would have gladly helped me understand the concept of the assignment, but would they have wanted to help me develop my topic idea? Maybe, maybe not. The point of the assignment is that I pick a topic and make the paper my own. That is hard to accomplish when a professor may distance their feedback so they don’t feel like they are leading you to a topic or writing the paper for you. This would be less of a concern in the Writing Center because I wouldn’t be told what the tutor would do if it was their assignment. I would be led through the assignment by answering important questions about the book itself and the ideas that already interested me.
This hypothetical session would have ended with me getting tips for furthering my brainstorming process and being given a handout with tips and tricks for getting through the whole writing process, not just the part I was on then. I likely would have made an appointment or come back when I was finished with my draft to see if my paragraphs had smooth transitions and if my thesis statement was strong enough for the topic I chose. These are the kinds of things the tutors are in the Writing Center for, not to judge or demean the students who have the courage to walk through the door.
I missed out on a great opportunity as an undergraduate student here, and I don’t want anyone else to miss out, too. The room may look daunting and the tutors sitting at the tables may seem like they just wouldn’t understand your struggles with writing, but that simply is not the case. We are still students, we are still learning, and we still struggle. I want you to see this room as it is—a place where you come to enter into some great collaborative work with a fellow student who wants to share in your interests and help you achieve your goals.
If you have any questions about what all the Writing Center can do or even when we’re open, go here.
Come see us! You won’t regret it.