Fellowing as Fisticuffs: Why Being A Fellow Should Require Combat Training

The Writing Fellows program at the UCWbL is a direct example of our writing-across-curriculum (WAC) approach to academic writing here at DePaul. It can be wonderful to have a serious level of involvement in a class full of students that may not otherwise ever work with a tutor. It can also be the bane of a tutor’s existence.

I want to begin by setting the record straight: I love being a Writing Fellow. It might be the best part of my job, except for the fact that it is unforgiving, painful, stress-inducing, and occasionally demeaning. Hell hath no fury like an undergrad who is resentful of having to take an hour out of their busy schedule to talk about revisions.

It can be taxing at times, to have to work around the schedules of other students who believe your weekday availability to be more suggestion than reality. Being easy going and flexible is an important part of being a fellow, but knowing when to put on some boxing gloves and step into the ring with a writer can be important to recognize as well.

You see, some of the writers we work with as fellows, though I find it hard to believe, resent the work we are trying to do because it requires extra effort. Some misguided, yet often intelligent students feel that revision is a waste of time and that a visitor to their class couldn’t possibly have any information that could be beneficial to their academic performance. It is essential that we knock that notion cleanly out of these writers heads, and that can require some serious Kung-Fu.

A stubborn writer may show up to an appointment having already made up their mind that us UCWbLrs are a formality, just as superfluous as a D2L dropbox. So what are we to do?

Bam!

Kerplow!

Onomatopoeia!

They don’t think fellows can help? Give them the ol’ razzle-dazzle! Show them how wrong they are. Send a left hook to their second body paragraph where they need a transition sentence. Lack of flow is going to really hinder them as the fight progresses, and they probably didn’t even notice. Take advantage of that sort of sloppiness, and you will have them on defense for the rest of the appointment.

Follow up by putting the pressure on them with well placed jabs at each error in their citations. Punctuation goes outside the parentheses when you are using MLA, and this isn’t the bush league, kid. Those mistakes add up, and it can be overwhelming evidence to a writer that they have more work to do.

Don’t get too caught up in conventions, though! Focusing on the specifics of a citation style is only a small part of what we do. Once they realize where the punches are coming from and start to feel comfortable with the Purdue OWL, mix it up with a roundhouse kick to the thesis statement. They won’t know what hit them as they grunt out an “I didn’t think this paper needed a thesis.” Well you better think again, cause this is an all out UCWbrawL now.

The writer is on the ropes! The onslaught of writing knowledge is slowing them down. Their stubbornness gives way to reluctance which changes up to admittance that yes, their conclusion paragraph really could use some more work. And for the knockout, another appointment is scheduled outside of the professor-mandated fellowing!

What a humdinger of a fight! Against all odds, the writer who once knew it all has been dethroned, and the fellow returns victorious to their tutor logs. There’s still nine rounds to go though, so don’t get too cocky. The fight is only over when there are no challengers left.

So I ask an open question to all writers, present and future, who I will have the good fortune of working with as a writing fellow. Shall we settle this the easy way, or the hard way?