Saturday, September 16, 2006

Here's how it went.

Well, now that I have a few tutoring sessions under my belt I will be pleased to tell you about them. My first session was with a Japanese student who was applying to Microsoft. She had in hand her resume and wanted the grammar checked on it. This was before we had learned anything about ESL students, and with my knees buckling I sat down to do the job. The session went okay, but I wasn’t as focused and concentrated as I wanted to be. I was too busy thinking, “Ahhhh!” The same types of situations came up as we had talked about in class, and I wished I had known about negotiated interaction. Nevertheless, I helped her with her paper the best I could and sent her on her way.

I felt much better about my next session. It consisted of an English 1010 student who needed help on a persuasive essay about stay-at-home moms. Phew, this was in my comfortable territory. She already had a pretty good paper backed up with a thesis and developing body paragraphs. I gave her a few suggestions and then sent her on her way. Then another student came in with the same assignment. His paper was a little harder to deal with, but I was able to give him advice on organization and how to stick to his point. I rather enjoyed both of these sessions because I was comfortable advising them.

I had another tutoring session where a learned a couple of important things about tutoring. A student came in with two papers that were each about five or six pages long. He was only concerned about grammar. So, I read through both papers with him, which took about an hour, and fixed grammatical errors. When I was done Kassie told me some helpful advice. She said that I could find patterns, educated him on how to fix the repeated problems, and let him fix the rest himself. This seems like common sense but I never really thought about it before. Anyway, thanks Kassie! In this session I also learned how to focus more in on the paper. I follow the reader along with my writing utensil. I never do this when I’m reading silently to myself but it really helps while tutoring!

Aye, They're all Full a' Malarky They Arr.

It's the end of the world as we know it, but tutoring's going fine. I've only been in the Writing Center twice, for one hour sessions each time, so my over-all experience is very limited. What experience I have had has been fine though, except for one thing. My first day, I had the opportunity to tutor two students, UNFORTUNAYELY, I forgot that the log sheet existed. Neither of them really got written down...I got the first name of one, but that was pretty bad. Somebody mentioned doing it as I was about to leave the Writing Center, otherwise I probably wouldn't have noticed at all...On the plus side though, being a new tutor, I've found myself with a lot of "let's read the manual time, which I am in sore need of.

... I guess I'll speak now on how I started writing. Well...**thinks about kindergarten experience**...**decides not to even start on that joke**...I guess the first time I really remember writing a story was in the Third Grade. I remember it like it was yesterday...**waits for the wavy "flashback" lines to appear** You see, our teacher, Mrs. Nelson, made us make a pop-up book as one of our assignments. One of our BIG, FAT, HUGE assignments. (Not to say that the other assignments in class were that big, just to make sure that there is no doubt in your mind about exactly how BIG, FAT, and HUGE this one was.) Anywho, I was really into the Dinotopia series at the time, and I also really liked dragons. So the story that I wrote, and cut me some slack here, because I was in the Third Grade, was called "Dinodragia." It just made sense. (And probably infringed on a few copy-write laws.) It was my masterwork, I made myself the main character and illustrated the whole thing. It had everything from shipwrecks, to pirates, to bombs made out of coconuts and bamboo. (Again, cut me some slack people, I was in the THIRD-freaking GRADE) No gunpowder was ever involved, don't ask me how that one worked. Anyways, not only was this the most intense story ever told, I also managed to tell the whole thing in less than a page, single-spaced if memory serves me. It, was awesome. I actually won a contest for it, but I didn't write much after that until the Fifth Grade. In the Fifth Grade Mrs. Harris introduced me to poetry, and that's what really got me hooked.

Now I'm done with that tangent, and off to another tangent! I didn't actually start writing stuff down until the Third Grade, but I made up alot of stories before that. I had a pretty active imagination, and my Dad always used to make up stories about me, my little brother, and two of our cousins on the fly, which he would tell us when we were going to sleep as kids. He was probably the one who gave me my love of stories in the first place, and about as long as I can remember, I've always loved to read. Most of you guys probably do to, but if you don't I'd really like to hear about it. I think it would be interesting to hear why you like to write if you don't like to read.

OH!! As scattered as my thoughts have been throughout this post, I just remembered the ultimate purpose of writing this thing. The prompt involved something like, "what about your writing experience can you bring to tutoring?" I like writing, I'd like students to like their writing too. If they don't.....well.....I'll just go from there. That's all for now I guess. Tata.
- Andie

Dostoyevsky Was, Is, and Always Will Be THE MAN!

First of all, I am so very pleased to hear from a couple of people in this class that they know and, more importantly, like Dostoyevsky. The man was a genius!!! This is all I am going to say abou him, so my title actually has little to do with my entry.

Now, about the whole writing thing…Well, how do I put this, I don’t feel like I have learned to write yet, honestly. I feel like my writing is very much in the beginning stages. I have seen progress in the last year or so since I have been back in school, however, and progress is all I really need to feel good about it. Well, actually, it’s progress and good grades.

I remember writing off and on since I was very young. When my mom came to the States a few years ago, she brought the fairytale I wrote when I was five or six. It was the first story I ever wrote, and it was more or less a combination of my favorite parts from other fairytales I had read. So the pattern of learning to write from reading is quite apparent in that story and in most other writing I have done. I am not plagiarizing, but I think I am learning by imitation, although usually I am not conscious of the fact until a lot later. Most of the creative writing I have done as a teenager, for example, contains the same themes as my reading at that time.

I do not believe that there are many truly original ideas, in a sense they are immaculately conceived in our genius minds. Most of them are brought to us by circumstances, observation, our experiences, our personalities, and usually a combination of those factors. Yet they are still original to us, in the same way as Darwin and Wallace each had original ideas, yet they were essentially the same. This is probably not the best analogy.

Aside from having ideas, there is the issue of organizing them. Most of it I learned or relearned in my 1010 and 2010 classes, and at the writing center. A lot of it had to do with the fact that I learned to write in another country and I was taught a slightly different rhetoric style. And some of it was due to the fact that the only writing I have done for many years consisted of letters and journal entries.

So how is all this useful to me in my current role as a tutor? Well, first and foremost, I know that I should never assume that the writing presented before me is necessarily an accurate reflection of ideas, especially if it is a first draft. In nine out if ten times, what I first jot down does not come close to completely or correctly reflecting the beautiful and profound thoughts in my head. OK, maybe they are not always “beautiful and profound,” but they are still better than what I manage to get on paper. One of the most important aspects of truly great writing is the ability to capture and express what one- but also everyone- feels or thinks, and to express it in such a way that others who have felt the same can recognize it.

To come back to tutoring, I think much of the tutoring process will be helping the student to simply answer the “What are you trying to say” question in the written form, within the assignment requirements. I know so many very intelligent people who are good at expressing themselves verbally, yet find it difficult to do the same in writing. I blame it simply on the lack of practice. I feel a lot of my tutees will fall into this category. And although I am usually really bad at expressing my thoughts in speech, I once was very much out of practice of doing it in written form. So in that sense I have been in the same boat, and I can relate to them. I can also relate well to ESL and non-traditional students. I think, I hope, that this understanding of their situation will be helpful in finding common ground from which to start the learning process.

Friday, September 15, 2006

I have only good expereinces tutoring so far. All of the students I’ve worked with have been very nice and gracious, and I’ve enjoyed being able to help them. I’ve realized that what I’ve been worried about isn’t actually the tutoring aspect of tuturing at all— it is tutoring someone like me, the way I was when I was a freshman four years ago. It is a nightmarish fantasy where a cocky, thinks-he’s-smarter-than-he-is little teenage snot swaggers in the room, plops down his “masterpiece”, and declares “I would like some help with this paper,”— says it in a tone that contradicts the spirit of any ordinary use of the word “help”. And then there’s him sitting there for twenty-odd minutes, with that look on his face as if challenging the the authority of any critical word spoken. Someone who eagerly watches for any mistake, just so he can tell himself, “Yea.... I knew this guy was a phony”. Yep. That was me I’m sad to say (me four years ago don’t forget). Well, I wasn’t really as bad as all that. I think my initial apprehension of tutoring came from generalizing this worst-possible-case scenerio. But from the first moment I started with my first student, I realized that it wouldn’t be anything like what I had imagined in my darker moments. It’s been a great expereince so far.

As for the proficient writing question, I’d say that my writing ability comes from reading a lot. I also got in the habit fairly early on (9th grade I think) of writing my thoughts down. I’ve always had trouble being eloquent in speech, but when I wrote I found that my words and thoughts flow much better. Oddly enough, I think this has given me valuable insight into the exact oppisite and much more common problem— that is, being able to speak clearly enough, but becoming mute when in front of a keyboard and computer screen. Understanding this kind of frustation helps me empathize with the difficulties that others have when trying to express themselves in writing.

Writings past and present...or something like that.

How I learned to write? I really don’t think that’s something that I know all that much about myself. I mean to say, yes, I can recall incidents that have helped me to become a better writer but I can’t recall any specific point where it became apparent I was good. I guess I must have a knack for it, funny though because I was always a big reader but never really wrote much till high school.
At first it was mostly school projects and in my sophomore year I took a creative writing class and had a baptism by fire into the subject. I later learned to love the woman who taught that class but at the time I hated her, it, and anything related to the class. Anything I turned in seemed to come back riddled with criticisms- and not the constructive kind. Oh no! These were bitter words and they endeared her to no one who got them. Then, little by little they became less frequent till they disappeared all together, and frankly I’m not all together sure why. I didn’t work any harder or try any really new techniques. I suppose I just assimilated all that she was teaching subconsciously.
After that, for two years, I was an editor of the high school literary magazine (which that teacher was the supervisor of strangely enough.) That was a very interesting experience; it really helped me to understand how others felt about their and others writings and how to deal with those feelings. There was also a witch hunt for plagiarism at one point. It was then that I started to surround myself with literati chums. That may be what influenced my writing most. One of my dearest friends is a journalism major, the other English/ philosophy- in fact she just sent off her first novel to the publishers! We always talk about books, what we’re writing, and even created skits revolving a church called Grammarvangelists. You can’t hangout with people like that and not have something of them rub off on you.
But because I was able to test out of my college English classes I’ve not been getting any really good feed back on my other papers. Its always that underline “good!” but, really, how does that help me improve? That’s why I’m really enjoying this English class, the other students and instructors are providing me with the information and skills that help me be a better writer. Subsequently, if I’m able to enhance my abilities I have that much more experience and skill at my disposal to help other students.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The writing never understood

A two part discussion, yay! Alright, the first part is relatively easy as it pertains to what my first few sessions have been like this semester. Truthfully, they’ve been really easy. It might be that I’m comparing them to my worst moment sessions from the previous term I worked, after all ANYTHING looks easy when compared to a forty page science graduation paper! And yes, I have had the lovely experience of attempting to edit that mad beast, especially when the student said it was due in half an hour and all he wanted was for grammatical corrections. So when I look at the short three page paper I’ve scanned, the resume, or even the twenty minute session working on idea generation you have to say that they’ve been easy.

My short paper was simply reading through and letting the student know what her global issues where, those being her choices of words where usually wrong in context. Then I had to help a graduating student to produce her Grad School Resume. She seemed fairly sure of what she was doing and honestly the only thing I noticed that was wrong was some minor punctuations which was easily fixed. The final, and so far favorite, of my papers was defiantly the sit down, idea generation one. We got to discuss what sort of bags she thought represented her and then how she was going to write down WHY she thought it was perfect. So between them I’ve had a nice introduction back into the life of the Writing Center, and I am now slowly getting ready for the wonderment that is…FINALS!!!

Now on to the second half of this discussion, where I learned to write the way I have. To begin with, I would like to say that I don’t think I’m that good of a writer. I mix up my words, add e’s to everything, and my punctuation needs some serious help. I don’t think, though, that I’ve ever had someone sit me down and work me through things. They’ll point out where I have problems and then leave it alone. So as I’ve gone through the years I’ve just learned to try and work on those parts-a fact that hasn’t worked so far. I also have learned to imitate the writing I view in my books and working to sound closer to their talents.

So my works tend to shift depending on the book I’m reading or the mood I’m in, and I have to say that’s probably not a good thing. I do have to say it’s created a rather interesting factor in that I can go back and read my assignments over the years and usually can identify what author I was reading at the time. How many people have that sort of time-table for their reading? Yet, I’ve managed to pass all of my English classes so far…added to the fact that I’m trying to write a novel all on my own and we’ll see where it will end up someday. All in all, I think that’s all I have to say regarding my so called writing ‘talents’ and I’ll leave it at that for today. ^^ Ja!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The roots of my writing

I have always been able to write my thoughts, but never really got any great feedback on my writing. Knowing that I needed more development, but not getting it from my teachers, I turned to books. I read anything that I could get my hands on. I came across a Russian writer named, Fyodor Doestoyesky. If you haven't taken the time to read his writings, I strongly suggest that you do. They are long stories but worth every moment. I learned the fundamentals of story writing but I also learned to become observant. Watch everything around you and quietly analyze it in your mind. I found myself beginning to understand people on a deeper level than just, "how do you do?" Shakespeare was another writer that taught me human behavior.

I know, this doesn't sound like it has anything to do with how I learned to write. permit me to elaborate in a little more depth. I learned to create characters by these two writers. I found myself thinking about how my character would think, dress, react in a situation, and speak. If they would be very literate, I had to understand grammar for their vocabulary. If they were a bum, they needed to speak in a broken language. I found myself researching my character's behavior and in turn, strengthening my writing.

I have tried to keep my reading diverse. So far, I have succeeded, but I still have a long way to go. Structure and format are my strengths in writing, but I want to develope all my skills with writing. You can learn on your own and go by your natural ability, but sooner or later you have to turn to someone to teach you.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Memories light the corners of my mind...

Wow, I love a good Barbra Streisand song. Anyway, on to happy thoughts of first sessions and first lessons. Well, I just experienced my first tutoring session about thirty minutes ago. I wasn't scared to jump in as I have been in previous days. So, the poor unsuspecting 2010 student writing a persuasive paper was about to be warped by the outlining junkie. She came in so sweet and unsuspecting and placed her paper before me with the question, "What's wrong with it?" More than once I had to fight the urge to write her paper for her, or to tell her all the things wrong with it, completely forgetting about positive feedback. Thankfully, I had several voices in my head accompanying me during this session. Claire's voice telling me to be positive and let the tutee lead the way, ask open ended questions, etc. Dr. Rogers' voice asking the question over and over again, "What are you trying to say?" I had to ask myself that question many times during the session when I couldn't seem to get my point across. Finally the voice of my composition and British Lit. professor from Baton Rouge Community College.

Not unlike Derek, I had always considered myself a good writer. The first English class I have clear memory of was in fifth grade. Basic writing skills seemed to come easily to me. So, my English teachers didn't feel the need to give extensive feedback. The first time I LOVED an English class was tenth grade. If you had asked me yesterday the same question of, "When did you first learn to write and who was your major influence?", I would have said my tenth grade English teacher, Mrs. Gibson. Her class was the first time I made less than an A in an English course. After I got over being mad at her, I realized what a service she had given me. For once I was being challenged. She knew I was a good writer, but she also knew I could do better. And she made me work for every point I earned in her class. There would be no sailing through. My first glimpses of what a real essay was came from Mrs. Gibson.

With that said, it was still not Mrs. Gibson's voice I heard in my head during the tutoring session today. It was Mrs. Mack. She's the one who brought my writing skills out of the high school level (where I'd been a big fish in a little pond) to the college level. She, like Mrs. Gibson, challenged me to not get complacent in my writing and to seek after something more. She insisted that I could always do better. Mrs. Mack is also the one who taught me her secret essay formula that turned me into the outline junkie you know me to be. Don't judge me. I do what works. So, there you have it. The history of writing according to Rachel. "So let it be written, so let it be done."

Veni, Vidi, ARRR! (I Came, I Saw, I Plundered)

Alright, having a few face-to-face tutoring sessions under my belt now, along with a couple of VERY difficult online submissions, I suppose I may be able to find some comments.

First off, I need to learn to speak gooder. I keep stumbling and tripping over myself, looking for the right words to explain to the poor, confused tutee why I feel that their organization might be a little off. I'll tie this in when I talk a bit about my writing experience, but we'll leave it at that for now.

Second off, while working with the online submissions doesn't bother me, I much prefer face to face sessions. I thrive on communication and contact (even if I speak dumbspeech good, yes?), and not being able to have a good give and take conversation with my tutee about their paper makes me feel more like I'm dictating or lecturing than tutoring. I don't know nearly enough to lecture.

Third off, my personal writing history is biting me in the proverbial buttocks again. This requires just a bit of a digression, so bear with me. You see, jumping in the Wayback Machine and setting the dial to an indeterminate time in the late '80's would not only let us see just how cool people thought they were back then and just how wrong they were, but would also show us a young Derek who was just starting to seriously write for his classes. He wrote very well for his age, everyone agreed, and therefore his silly instructors didn't give him any feedback on his performance in English and composition classes. They all figured that since he used articles and prepositions correctly in his writing, he didn't need to learn how to actually explain how to use articles and prepositions! This lovely little pattern continues literally all the way into the first college courses I took. I would turn in writing assignments, they would come back with all kinds of compliments, but I really never felt like I was learning anything, especially about exactly how to explain our illogical kleptomaniac of a native language.

However! Steps are being taken to painfully wrench those nasty teeth out of my tender bits. Obviously, I now have peers and professors who understand what I'm trying to learn. I don't particularly want to learn how to be a better writer right now. I'm far more concerned with learning how to make others better writers. I'm kind of thinking I came to the right place for that.

Dear God I need internet at home again. Claire's looking at me funny and that just ruins my train of thought.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

So...How's It Going?

I thought that since you all have begun tutoring now it would be interesting to hear what you have to say about your first sessions. How are they going? What are you learning about tutoring?

Alternately, I'm interested in hearing you all discuss how you learned to write with the degree of proficiency you all have. Have you always had a knack for it? Or did you learn it the hard way? More importantly, what about this do you think you'll be able to bring to bear on a tutoring session?