Thursday, October 11, 2012

Writing Center in the Parent Newsletter!

This interview will appear in the next Roosevelt Parent Newsletter!

The Writing Center provides one-on-one peer tutoring to all writers in the university community. The following is a discussion between two tutors at the Roosevelt Writing Center. Eleanor Peck is a senior who has worked in the center for two years and is majoring in Political Science. Mooni Abdus-Salam is also in her fourth year and this her first semester working at the writing center. She is an English major and Hispanic Studies minor.

Eleanor: Hello Parents! I love working at the writing center because it is great to help students learn how to revise their papers and find their voice within their writing. What’s your favorite part of working here Mooni?

Mooni: My favorite part is finding out what classes are about through the things that students write. Last week a student came in who was getting her Master’s in Public Administration and she had to write an annotated bibliography which was the precursor to a huge paper she had to write. It was interesting to learn what the teacher expected in graduate level courses and how to cite in a different format. I like working here because I learn as I tutor.

Eleanor: I agree. I love reading papers from classes I never would have taken, but still find interesting. What I also enjoy about working here is the writing community. I have started to enjoy writing more from working here, because I am surrounded by people who love to write.

Mooni: Me too! However, I do wish one thing was different. I wish more students realized the writing center isn't just for people who are struggling, but it is for anyone.

Eleanor: Exactly. Students don’t realize that we tutors get help with our writing all the time. I have learned to accept that revising is part of the writing process.

Mooni: I also think it is great that we outreach at the writing center. We have two Outreach Programs this year. Tutors and students in certain classes are helping students outside of Roosevelt at both Morrill Elementary School and Jumpstart in the Juvenile Probation Center.

Eleanor: Awesome. I hope this conversation has helped parents learn more about the writing center. We are here to help five days a week during the school year, and we also have online tutoring that is available in the evenings and on the weekends.

Friday, September 28, 2012

A Writer's Journey from Detroit to Chicago

Moving from Detroit to Chicago for graduate school has been an experience colored with surprise, familiarity, trepidation and joy. I've been here studying journalism for a little over a month now and I've already seen enough to write a book (on the CTA alone). What has been consistent throughout this month is this unwavering sense of the unseen arranging things on my behalf. Faith has become real to me in new ways. I consider it an Urban Divinity that has transitioned with me from Detroit to Chicago.
I absolutely hated my last job I was working in Michigan and vowed to not apply for or consider any position that I didn't think I'd enjoy or be proud of. Obviously, that limited my application process drastically. The idea of income constantly tried to override that vow, and it loomed in the background of every decision I made. But I chose not to worry about money and to trust things would work out. I chose to have faith.
So now I'm a tutor in RU's Writing Center, a work study job custom-made for Rachel. I love writing and I love helping people, so what better way to spend 12 hours a week than helping people write? This came after I was told I didn't even qualify for federal work study, which I was certain I did. All it took was a visit to Financial Aid and a stern request to have them reevaluate my package. A financial aid advisor realized on the spot the error they made and corrected it. I applied to the work study positions that seemed to suit me and here I am—loving every 50 minute session of peer tutoring.
Besides class work, I spend a good portion of my time volunteering at CPS in the office of Family and Community Engagement. My father mentioned to me before I left Detroit, "Remember, Rachel, volunteering will open doors for the job you want." Again, not an idea supportive of sustainable income. A girl has rent to pay! But what I've learned already by stepping out on this limb has been indispensible. The experience here at CPS is a chance to hone my communications skills, get media-savvy and exercise competence. I have a chance to produce measurable results, learn more about Chicago and help communities improve their local schools. I think a part-time job at Starbucks (or any other company that popularly employees students) would be a loss compared to this. Call me crazy.
Anyhow, I encounter at just the right time exactly what I don't always know I need or want, and not to my own credit. I am a young lady in a big city figuring it out alone, but not alone.
Urban Divinity :)


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Writer's Block?

Do you have writer’s block? It's ok. Everyone gets stuck. It’s perfectly normal to feel anxiety, frustration, indifference, irritation, or confusion when writing a paper. So how do we get over these roadblocks of negativity in order to get anything accomplished? What I recommend is taking it slow. Often times we are in such a rush to get a paper finished that we want everything to be perfect immediately. However, it’s easier said than done.

I used to always get worked up over finishing a paper, but then one day I realized that it wasn’t worth it to stress myself out. Last week while tutoring another student I figured out the simplest solution. Whether you’re writing a narrative paper about your own experiences or an academic paper that requires quotes from at least three sources, you’ll feel much better if you follow this list of simple suggestions:

1) Give yourself plenty of time to write your paper.
Never try and put it together at the last minute. Rushed writing leads to careless mistakes.

2) Don’t worry about writing your introduction right then and there.
Go back and write it after you figure out the rest of the paper.

3) Create a list of bullet points that quickly summarize your main ideas beforehand.

4) Don’t worry about exactly what you’re trying to say… yet. Just start writing!
Get it all out there and just go with it. Type out everything you are thinking. Don’t worry about how to organize your thoughts right now.

5) Take a break. Maybe you should wait until tomorrow.
No, don’t feel guilty for watching tv or hanging out on Facebook. You deserve a breather.

6) Now that you have fresh eyes for writing, read your paper aloud to yourself.
Does it sound repetitive? Too detailed? Not detailed enough? Will it make sense to your reader? What needs to be eliminated or added? Where should the next paragraph start?

7) After organizing your thoughts, you’re ready to write your introduction and conclusion.

8) Take another break.
It’s ok. Walk away.

9) Read the finished draft and see if it all makes sense.
Go back and make final revisions.

Now you’re done! No pressure and less stress! You took your time, you worked on your paper in small steps, and as a result you’re feeling more confident in your own writing abilities. Try this method and stop by the RU Writing Center to let us know how it worked out for you.

Fonda Ginsburg
RU Graduate Student and Writing Center Tutor

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Writing From Different Backgrounds: Some things to think about!

Hello there, Reader,

If you're a tutor, you have probably had difficult sessions where you might have wished the writer would be more engaged. You may have asked yourself why is it so exhausting and sometimes hopeless in making a good name for writing-- after all, writing is very powerful. However, the real question is: have you thought about how one's background affects how motivated the writer is/will be?

Knowing how diversified the demographic in colleges tend to be it is not easy to predict the level of writing or the type of experiences the writer has had in the past. So, when you feel frustrated and do not believe that your sessions are going too well, think about what kind of experiences that the student may have faced in high school and where certain issues stem from.  

Let us explore some of the common struggles that may arise in a session:

- The writer is disengaged/shy and you tend to be talking more than they are
- When you speak, the writer writes down what you say and stops when you stop speaking
- The writer is adamant about their lack of writing ability
- When asking questions or for elaboration on their ideas, the writer may become reluctant
-  Caution when the writing piece is more personal
- The most painful: the writer only comes in because they want proof that they came to a session for credit

Does this sound accurate to some degree?

Now, try think about what may be going on here. Sometimes, just by reading a writer's paper, you can tell what kind of style the writer sways toward. You can even be able to identify their style by their willingness to participate in the session. For the purposes of this blog, we will focus on writers who might not be a fan of writing.

Not a 'Fan'...yet!

Take a step back, and think about all the times a writer has told you that they either dislike writing or that they are terrible at writing. Why do you think anyone might say that? I, myself, come to find that many students who make such claims are missing something important: confidence. But, why is this the case?

The priorities of typical English curricula that are outlined by schools about writing vary. Not every school has English programs that pour their attention into areas of writing that are much more empowering than, say, grammar and spelling. Most of the work that youth are assigned is meant to "prepare" them for the infamous, and often dreaded, standardized tests. The room for creativity and self-expression then becomes highly restricted resulting in a student, who may have had potential, very bored by the concept of writing. Sometimes, the students' imaginative faculties open up when they pursue individual writing projects of their own creation such as: online sites where they may publish poetry and stories; journals about their life experiences or fiction; short stories and poems for 'Poetry Slams' or 'Spoken Word' events with their friends.
Very much related to the first issue is when the instructor then highlights grammar and spelling as vital to their grade. Imagine getting a paper back with all sorts of markings and red ink. How would you feel? What would you think? I, for one, always thought that I have done a very poor job, and I have hated writing all through high school. When someone tells you that your writing is terrible and that you are unable to write, that can be problematic. The student is harmed and disempowered. It is made to seem like writing is an ability rather than an art that you develop over time.

When you really think about what writing means, ironically, these practices are counter-intuitive to the "goals" many schools set for themselves. I think about writing as the embodiment of your thoughts, ideas, feelings, beliefs, and everything that makes you who you are. So, evidently, telling someone that they are unskilled in writing really means, by my logic, that you are fragmenting the identity of a person. Less ironically, these types of attittudes towards writing come from youth who live in predominantly low-income and minority neighborhoods.

That is not to say that teachers love to tell students that grammar makes the grade rather, it is the educational policies that manipulate the curriculum that teachers have to abide by. It becomes a challenge to work around and be nurturing at the same time. Still, this does not make it right. Educators should not have to face the kind of choices that they are limited to.  

But, what I have come to believe is that this is all for a reason (not a very positive one, at that). When you have the power to disenfranchise whole groups of people from being able to express themselves confidently and articulately, you are erasing identities and limiting their active participation in creating counter-discourses in the issues that concern them most.

Then, what should be done? There must be a complete revision to English curriculum in schools that are located in low-income and minority neighborhoods. Youth must be encouraged to express themselves and be proud about what they have to say! So, aim to be as thoughtful and positive as you can be and don't feel hopeless about sessions if they're not how you'd like them to be!