Being a Peer When there is an Age Gap: Part 1

To be frank, I did not go into the Thesis and Dissertation Conference with confidence that I could teach Doctorate students much about anything. Second graders often think of fourth graders as “the big kids.” We have this built-up idea of someone just a few steps ahead of us as having infinitely more knowledge and wisdom. I cannot even approach those fourth graders without permission. This intimidating impression of “the big kids” can stick around—it’s not a misconception limited to children. It’s exciting when you realize that you have influenced someone you believe is ahead of you in experience. At the conference, I realized that “the big kids” can learn from the perspectives of their younger and less experienced peers.

Brooke and I waited in anticipation for half an hour before the doctorate students walked in. Last minute fears ran through my head: “These people are geniuses. They won’t want to do group activities. They will want hard and fast information about the specific elements of their projects.” Unfortunately, this was something Brooke and I had very little to share on.

To my surprise, we doubled the allocated time for group work. Many people were incredibly knowledgeable about their respective fields, but they were not in the habit of reflecting on their writing processes. Because I am always surrounded by discourse about the writing process, I assumed that everyone thinks about the writing process as much as I do. My experience leading this workshop reminded me that the writing center fosters a unique culture that not everyone in the academic world is privy to. I can share that culture to even the revered “big kids” and teach them something about themselves.