Training season at the UCWbL: a view from the other side

By October 10, 2011Peer Writing Tutoring

Spiced cider…  The bursting colors of turning leaves…  The soft sounds of your “Fall” playlist on Spotify…  There are a number of reasons why we look forward to autumn, but at the UCWbL’s Writing Center, the most thrilling thing about the season is the training of our new tutors.


With the way we’ve designed our training process, it essentially has two parts. First, a new tutor sits in on several appointments as he or she “shadows” an experienced tutor at work.  After each appointment, the two huddle together and analyze the appointment: What lessons does the appointment offer? What went well? What could have been better? Was the writer satisfied?  After the new tutor has observed their share of appointments, it then comes time to swap roles. Now, the new tutor takes the reins, and the experienced tutor kicks back and observes.  Again, at the end of the appointment, the tutors take time to reflect.

The training process is challenging, and it demands a lot from new tutors.  It’s not uncommon that our more experienced staff will whisper to each other, “Good thing that’s all over with.”  But I think many of us recognize that the rhythms of training our tutors benefit everybody–old and new alike.  After all, some of us have tutored at the UCWbL long enough to have worked with literally hundreds of writers on their projects.  Over time, I’ve seen for myself how real the risk is of slipping into routine.  But each autumn, even the veterans, who have been around so long to be of paleoanthropic interest, are revived, and with a very simple formula: when new and experienced tutors sit down together to talk one-on-one about their practice, aren’t we giving one another’s strategies the same “second set of eyes” we offer to writers when they come in for appointment?

Autumn Quarter is the time for these conversations, and it’s therefore when some of the best and most genuine scholarship on Writing Center work takes place.  In just a few short weeks, I’ve been given a new lease on how, to name a couple instances, to deal with writers in need of a confidence boost, and how to explain most clearly some basic strategies for re-organizing a first draft.

Now I want to invite experienced and new tutors alike to tell us about on some of the best conversations you’ve had with one another this fall.  What’s been on your mind?