Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Why Writing Center Tutors will Save the World

Sure, the title is far-fetched, but think about it: we tutor students every day in many different areas of writing. We get the majority of our students from English 101 and 102 classes, yes, but we also have undergraduate and graduate students coming in for help with writing for subjects such as Engineering, History, Communications, Political Science, and Education, not to mention all of the students who come in for help with personal statements, resumes, cover letters, and application essays. These students are the future of the world! Writing is such a valuable and marketable strength in the world of work today. If these students do not learn how to write well, there is a good chance they will not succeed.

That is where we come in. As tutors at the Writing Center, we meet students where they are to help them become better writers. We do not do it just to help them finish and/or fix a particular paper; rather, we guide them along the road of learning how to write effectively in general. It is our job to help them learn writing techniques and rules on their own so they can succeed by themselves when they do not have us to help them.

So picture this: a student we regularly see at the Writing Center graduates and enters the “real world.” He finds a job, but it requires a ton of written communication skills. Because of the skills and techniques our fantastic tutors have taught him during his time at the Writing Center, his boss gives him a promotion after only two months! He goes on to become the President of the United States, and he ends the debt crisis because of his excellent writing skills.

When he wins the Nobel Peace Prize, he particularly thanks the WVU Writing Center for helping him learn to become a fantastic writer. If it weren’t for us, the debt crisis would never have been solved.

Pat yourself on the back, fellow tutors. Just think of the potential impact we have on the futures of the students we tutor. We impart invaluable writing knowledge, and only through communication can this world ever be saved.

This is just a little encouraging tidbit. With Spring Break approaching at the speed of a turtle, we can all most definitely use it!

Monday, March 12, 2012

How to Slingshot Goliath

We all have had, or currently have, that huge paper looming over our heads, like some menacing giant waiting to grind our bones for bread (not being morbid, just a Shrek reference.) Chances are, because of how long it is, it is important. It may be for a lab, class, thesis, capstone, writing section, or whatever else. All you know is that your life currently depends on it, and you have mulled over it for weeks (or hours, if you’re a procrastinator, like me) and it still doesn’t seem to get any better. You’ve spell-checked it. You’ve read it hundreds of times. However, you’re still nervous about turning it in. Is it perfect? Is there anything you could have missed? Is it ready?

First of all: chill out. This paper is not the end of your life, I promise. Therefore, I, the almighty Writing Center blogger, shall give you advice to help you on your quest. My number one piece of advice: don’t wait until the last minute. This is especially vital in the future, when you begin writing the really important papers: dissertations, research articles, etc. You want to make sure you schedule time to work on your paper. I’ve found that if you set a block of time to do something in your schedule, you’re more likely to do it than if you just leave you and your free time to your own devices. As a side note for that, make sure that you go somewhere to work on the paper, somewhere you know you’ll work. It could be a computer lab or library, but you want to make sure you’re in an environment where you won’t be used to, and therefore tempted, to goof off. Just make yourself work for however much time you allotted yourself – an hour, two, whatever – and stop after that. Remember, you don’t have to finish in one day. If you start early enough, you can space it out and keep yourself sane.

Advice number two: retreat and re-read. This one is fairly simple, but many people will never do it. When you’re finished your paper, just stop there. You… Stop! Put the paper down. Forget about it. Put it in your binder or drawer, or close the WORD document. Just leave it be and forget about it. Forget it for a few days. Don’t you even dare look at it! Then, after a few days, pick it up again. The trick is to read it with fresh eyes and a new perspective. You want to seem like a stranger reading your paper. You’re much more likely to find mistakes when you aren’t used to seeing them over and over again.

It’s also a good idea to have someone else look over the paper. Everyone thinks differently, so a different mind reading your paper might result in new and different ideas or views on the subject. Never snub someone else’s ideas on your paper; they could be the difference between you standing out and being a plain jane.

Remember: if you’re ever unsure about the direction you’re going in and if it’s what your professor wants, never be afraid to ask! Professors are not your enemy; they are here to help you. If you ask them to help, they will.