Saturday, September 01, 2007

my fears

Okay, so at the moment, I feel a little bit overwhelmed by the thought of posting something I write that the entire world can see. I’ve never actually done a blog before in my entire life. I really don’t even know what a blog truly is or even what the term means. So, I guess that’s where my anxiety for the class begins. As for my anxiety about becoming a writing tutor for Weber State University’s writing center, I honestly don’t know what to expect, so it’s hard to put into words exactly what my fears really are. I am one of those types that don’t like surprises, so not knowing what is going to happen or how it going to happen is very intimidating for me. I think my biggest anxiety is that I am not going to be a very effective tutor. All of my life, I have been a huge stickler about spelling and it shows up in my editing skills. For some reason, a misspelled word is always the first thing that I look for when I am reading somebody’s paper, and I know and understand now that using that approach is definitely not going to be very helpful for the student and his or her paper as a whole. I would be focused on the nitty-gritty details and not the ‘big picture’ of the paper, like the thesis and conclusion, which are much more likely to be graded more heavily than spelling and punctuation errors.

Another fear I have is having the inevitable situation occur when a student asks me a question that I simply do not know the answer to. I am the type of person who hates not being able to help someone find what they are looking for and I love that feeling I get when I’m able to help someone find the answer to whatever question that they have.
What’s worse than telling somebody, “I don’t know the answer”, would be to give them the wrong information all together. As a lab aide here in the computer labs at Weber State, I have already had to face those situations before several times and they’re not the most pleasant experiences I’ve had to go through while I pursue my education.

Another fear I have is my lack of knowledge of the MLA/APA/Chicago systems for how to correctly document sources. As a recent graduate of Weber State with a double major in History and English, I feel fairly confident that I can use the Chicago style of using footnotes and endnotes pretty efficiently, but I finished my English degree so long ago, I feel like I am not as on top of that style as I used to be. However, I am also enrolled here in the MA in English program, and I know that we will be covering these topics exhaustively in class, so I feel it is safe to say that those styles will be returning to my memory quite soon.

Friday, August 31, 2007


The quick light-brown fox jumped over the lazy border collie.

The Very First Blog

I have never written a blog before. It always seemed against the whole purpose of what a diary was supposed to be. What’s the point if its online for the world to see? It makes me assume people are lying. How honest can you be when the world is reading what you are saying? I know the purpose of this isn’t for that whole “he broke my heart” or “guess who said this about her” thing. This blog is for the writing center which means “What am I learning about tutoring?” from week to week. God, I hope I have enough to say from week to week. And then what if there is a particularly funny story about a tutee? Am I being unethical in telling the story online? Am I like a doctor? Confidential files stay confidential. Its probably unethical to say anything.

This whole grammar thing is throwing me threw a loop. Exactly how am I qualified for this? What do I know about it? Last semester I did take Latin and actually felt like I learned more about English there than in any English class. Funny how another language can do that. I hope I will be qualified by the end of this semester. I can’t remember how well I did in grammar during elementary school. All I remember is how excruciating the lesson plans were…the worst hand cramps ever. All we ever did was copy line after line out of our textbooks, fixing an error here and underline a pronoun there. English sounds so boring in that kind of context, but that’s not what it is. I wonder how many students that come into the writing center feel that way about English. I was really lucky to have a few amazing English teachers. A good teacher really makes the difference in how a person feels about a subject. One awful math teacher can ruin math forever for a person. It seems bizarre to me that anyone would despise English the way I hate math, but I suppose it happens.

Actually I’m really excited about being certified as a tutor. It feels like such a great opportunity. I already know how to use an engraver and laser machine, put together a frame, shelve according to the Library of Congress, and will shortly be certified as a tutor. I didn’t even realize they had certifications for this kind of thing. I’m curious to see how my first tutoring session will go. I don’t really think I’ll be nervous. I actually really enjoyed peer grading when you look at another student’s paper and give them your opinion. I tend to make their papers look really messy…notes bleeding all down the side. I’m practically cruel, but I always try to throw in the kind “I like this part”. Now I wonder if you should do that in the Writing Center. If there is one person who you particularly butchered should you throw them the odd bone?


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Dang it!

I was determined be the first to break this blog's long silence, but Cameron beat me to the punch. My French homework just HAD to come first. Des fois, la procrastination est vraiment ma bête noire!

But first things first. Where did I put Dr. Rogers's syllabus..? Ah! Here. "Each week, you are required to write 500 words... You may use these entries to reflect on class discussion or your tutoring experience." Okay. I can do this. I'm off to a great start and have only [word count] 408 words to go. Wait. Now I'm down to a mere [word count] 395. Geez, this is a lame blog post. I wonder if anybody's still reading. Writer's block stinks, but I suppose it happens to everyone. Said novelist Gene Fowler, "Writing is simple. You sit and stare at a blank piece of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead."

Simple indeed.

I know! In my cyber-mind's eye, I'll imagine a tutoring session in which I, Michael, am assisting a student, Meta-Michael, with writer's block. Meta-Michael has a [word count] 317-word paper due for his English class, and he would like some guidance.

MICHAEL: Welcome!


MICHAEL: What brings you to the virtual writing center today?

META-MICHAEL: My paper. I have to write a... 281-word blog post for Dr. Rogers's class.

MICHAEL: Okay. Let me get you signed in here, and then we'll sit down and talk.

META-MICHAEL: That'd be great.

MICHAEL takes the necessary information from META-MICHAEL, and after navigating a maze of computers, computer chairs, and other tutors, they sit down at a table. They chat for a moment, and META-MICHAEL is struck by the similarities he senses between himself and MICHAEL. MICHAEL, however, claims not to perceive any such similarities. Their conversation continues, genially.

MICHAEL: So what is Dr. Rogers expecting from this 220-word posting?

META-MICHAEL: Well, his syllabus says to reflect on class discussions and tutoring experience.

MICHAEL: What have you written so far?

META-MICHAEL: Haven't you read the preceding paragraphs? Nothing, really. I'm having a tough time getting started.

MICHAEL: That's okay. Writer's block happens to everyone, even Gene Fowler. Why don't we spend the next 133 words brainstorming together? Our sessions, sadly, are somewhat limited, but before we run out of words, I'm sure we can come up with some ideas for your blog.

META-MICHAEL: I'm willing to try anything.

MICHAEL: Great! Let's get started. Why don't you tell me about your last tutoring experience?

META-MICHAEL: I've never actually tutored. I've barely started the training.

MICHAEL: I see. Well, I'm sure you'll have more than ample opportunity in the future. Do you have any fears about tutoring?

META-MICHAEL: No, not really. Fear is probably too strong of a word. I fear snakes. I fear spiders. I fear the ontological awareness of my own existence. But tutoring? I might feel a little nervous because I've never held a tutoring session, but not fearful.

MICHAEL: Tell me about your last class. What did you discuss in your last class with Dr. Rogers?


MICHAEL: Smarties?

META-MICHAEL: Yeah. Did you know they have bubblegum ones now? When people look at the wrapper, they'll naturally expect a tart, chalky candy inside, but it's really bubblegum. Pretty scandalous, huh?

MICHAEL: What did you talk about after Smarties?

META-MICHAEL: I don't re... Oh! That's right! We talked about how to begin a tutoring session.

To be continued...

And in short, I was afraid...


What kinds of worries/fears do you have about tutoring?

Introductions are in order, but sadly we're out of stock.

In front of you shuffles a short kid on stage, shoulders rounded and unkempt black hair. Through his fogged glasses, he looks both confused, nervous, and surly all at the same time. He looks left and right, as though not quite sure what he’s doing, but decides to do it anyway.

“Uhh, hi. Uhm. Hi. I’m, uhh…not, uh, sure I…uh…should…um…” At this point he pulls out a ream of paper scraps and post-it notes, some of which fall to the stage and he panics in a scramble to pick them up. He hastily looks around, surprised and embarrassed, and quickly runs off stage.

So, I guess I should start here without any further delay. I guess, hi. My name is Cameron, and I’m a BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) student and brand-new Writing Center tutor. Or maybe it’s just some amazingly cryptic pseudo-identity and I’m really some kind of super-intelligent shark from the Marianas Trench whose life-goal is to conquer Andorra while wearing the pinkest pantaloons, you’ll never really know. Ahh, the joys of the internet.

But I digress in my nonsensical ramblings. Like so many of my peers and predecessors before me, I too am nervous and uncertain about what the future holds. However, having been in this situation before, and deciding that the best way (for me) to approach any new situation is to dive in head-first without looking first, I think I’ll do so…wait for it, wait for it…wa–NOOWW.


Owww. I don’t think that diving into carpeted concrete was such a good idea.

In any event, hi. I sense you can get a feel for my personality as it stands. It’s because I’m psychic. Seriously, though, all kidding finally (and hopefully) set aside, for now, I’ve been participating in the class and have been finding it very helpful, and very enjoyable. 50 minutes feels like such a luxury compared to the three hours spent in art studio classes, or even the two hour art history classes. The work-load is a bit more than I’m used to, but since I have virtually no social life, I expect to get it done in a timely manner. Or maybe I’ll waste it away playing Magic: The Gathering and World of Warcraft at home and not get anything done.

I’m still in serious mode, btw.

But I think the class will be helpful and insightful. Going back to my nerdy MTG reference in the previous paragraph, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to learn and to better understand the underlying characteristics of the English language. This especially amazes me, since a few years ago you wouldn’t have convinced me I was into such a thing. But I’m getting off track. Going back to MTG, I’m reminded of the company’s player profiles: Spike, Johnny, Timmy, Vorthos, and Melvin. I won’t discuss any of the others, but I feel that I am, at least partially, of the player type “Melvin” who enjoys the game to understand the deep intricacies and inner-workings of many things of personal interest. So hopefully I’ll be able to learn and appreciate more about both the English language and helping others learn it as well.

And I’ve passed my 500 word mark. Okay, see you all next week. I have Andorran geography to research–WAIT YOU DIDN’T HEAR THAT SHUT UP AHHH.