Two quarters ago, I took a class that really made me step out of my comfort zone. It was a communications class called “Performance: Communication, Creativity, and the Body.” I am a quiet person by nature–I don’t like to get up in front of people and speak, and I definitely don’t like to perform. But it was a required class that forced me to use my voice and experiences to communicate in ways that I never had before.
At first, I was nervous to go up in front of my class and perform. Using your body and your voice in new ways can be terrifying. As time went on, however, I understood that it was about growing confidence, which is when I realized the impact that confidence can have in yourself and your work. This is because confidence has the ability to build you up and encourage you to do things you might not normally do, but the lack of confidence can be the thing that brings you down. To fight lack of confidence, the whole class would gather in the center of the room before every performance while our professor had us chant:
I like myself.
I like my audience.
I know my words,
and I know I know them.
This was to help us give the best performance we could, to step out of our comfort zones with the self-assurance that we needed. Through repeating this with the class, we were able to feel confident that we were prepared and that our audience was going to be receptive of us and of the stories we were about to tell.
It’s important to apply these ideas to our work at the writing center. How can we help writers get to that place, the one where they feel confident sharing and speaking? The one where they are certain that we, their audience, won’t judge them?
A lot of people come in to the UCWbL and aren’t sure what to expect. It might be an English Language Learner whose voice wavers because they’re afraid to make an English mistake in conversation. Or, it might be a shy writer who has had a negative experience with feedback and is worried about criticism. No matter the circumstances, it’s important for us to make sure that the writers we work with are comfortable, that they know we aren’t going to judge their ability to speak properly or the way that they write. We’re here for them and with them–to help and to collaborate, not to make judgments.
We may know this, but all writers who step through our doors for the first time may not. This is why I think it’s so important to reassure writers that it’s okay. It’s okay if they aren’t confident enough to read their paper aloud yet. It’s okay if they want to whisper during their conversation partner appointment. As peer tutors and writers, our goal should be to work alongside them so that they can get to the point of feeling comfortable about reading their work to a stranger or speaking without hesitation. And we need to have confidence in our peer tutoring abilities that we have the skill to help writers get to that place.
Now, repeat after me: I like myself.