Life at the UCWbL: The Before, the After, and the In Between

By October 15, 2012Peer Writing Tutoring

People, papers, and red pens. This is what we new tutors envisioned going into the application process to become a Writing Center Tutor. Because the application process consisted of correcting a sample paper, we naturally came to the conclusion that we were going to be doing just that. We received an email from the UCWbL urging writers from all across the University to apply for a tutoring position. The rest, as the tired and true saying goes, was history. As we wrote our essays and reached out for recommendations, we questioned what we were getting ourselves into. We didn’t have the time or the energy to take on this job — or did we?

What we thought the UCWbL was: We were sure that the Writing Center was going to be a place where writers would come in, we would correct his or her paper, and everyone would be on their merry way.  Two of us had never previously visited the Writing Center, and one of us had been there only by a professor’s requirement, so this was our best guess. Fast-forward a few months, and we were on our way to the All-Staff orientation. We were excited to begin working at the center, but didn’t realize how the UCWbL was going to fill an entire six hours with paperwork and icebreakers. Once inside, we quickly realized that a fourth day of orientation may not have even be enough. The entire lecture hall was filled with people, all of them UCWbLers. The Writing Center is vast in size and scope: the sheer number of tutors and fellows, variety of teams, and growing online presence solidified the Writing Center as more than what many call a fix-it-shop. It is not a place for students to submit their papers for editing. It is not simply a place that corrects comma-splices, run-on sentences, and ‘lol’s’. The Writing Center is much more.

A week later, it was time to start our first day of work. Having never been to the Writing Center before, we were eager to meet both fellow tutors and writers alike. Our first few shadowing experiences went smoothly —we took notes on the tutoring process, observed a variety of tutors, and even offered suggestions to writers. Slowly, we became more comfortable opening up to the students we worked with. As we progressed to being shadowed as we took on appointments, we each found our own way to handle appointments. None of us tutors the exact same way. We all have our own strengths, weaknesses, and ideas of how to be the best tutor. Some of us are directive, while some of us prefer a “hands-off” minimalist approach. Some of us use a mixture of both styles. The UCWbL has encouraged us to learn from each other in order to take the best of everyone’s style of tutoring to create our own.

We’ve now been working at the Writing Center for over a month, and our suspicions from Orientation have been proven correct: The UCWbL is more than an ordinary one-stop-shop for editing and proofreading. At the UCWbL, we never experience a “typical” day or appointment. Every writer is different, and every tutor has a different approach, tutoring philosophy, or perspective on the writing process. No two papers are alike, no matter how similar the topic, and while appointments may start similarly, you never know where the collaborative discussion will take you.  The one constant is the unforgettable mantra that will forever live in Writing Center scholarship and practice: writing centers produce better writers, not just better writing. This trademark clause has embodied our experience at the UCWbL. We provide a wide array of services to various different types of writers. We are not just Tutors and Fellows to students. We go above and beyond the call of duty to assist students with many different things. The community found in the Writing Center is unparalleled and unequivocal.