Turning the Tables on New UCWbLers

It’s fall at DePaul again. That means one thing for the University Center for Writing-based learning: new recruits.

Which is fine. When your annual turnover laps up against the range of 50 percent, the need for new blood gets pretty steep. They’re important, technically.

They’re kind of like newborn puppies, except you can’t use a candid picture of them to farm likes or retweets or karma from strangers on the Internet…

They stumble around, lost and helpless; forgetting how to get to the Loop office and disregarding the critical four-part process for completing a successful log (exigence, agenda, methods, and next steps—check out page 178 of our handbook for more on tutor logs), when they remember to write a log in the first place, the amateurs.

I don’t just bring these specific examples because they’re the exact problems that I had as an up-and-coming tutor. The fact that I once had to learn how to be not bad at this job is irrelevant to my current rant.

Hear me out. Look past the friendly and earnest expressions of these newbies, the invaluable skills and experiences they’re bringing from across disciplines to make the UCWbL stronger than ever. Just, don’t think about that too hard.

Think about the audacity! These newbies are stepping into a job that’s both challenging and critical to the University’s mission. They’re taking an entire class to capture the essence of being a peer writing tutor as well as the utility of language across all sorts of communities. I mean, who does that?

But it doesn’t stop there. As I’m sure all of us veterans have had to deal with in the past few weeks, these new tutors don’t just sit on their laurels while they’re learning about the job in class. They sit us down for interviews! They watch us do Face-to-Face and Written Feedback appointments, studiously taking notes on the techniques and tools a lot of us probably picked up in the same way in our first quarter! The nerve! 

At this point, you have to be sitting on the same question I’ve been asking: what about us? Who’s looking out for the big guy, the old guard? What right do these fresh meatbags have to make themselves better from learning about our experiences, our trials, and tribulations?

I want to turn the tables on the new UCWbLers. I want to take back what’s been ours all along; the right and ability to learn from each other and make ourselves better. Who are they to take that away from us?

So hunt down a newbie and talk to them.  Ask them anything and everything. Ask them about the skills they earned helping teach their mom’s second grade English class; the summer they spent dragging kids through the woods at a day camp; the writing they did for a school paper during an undergrad far, far away. Suck in all of the information you can about their lived experience until they’re nothing but a dried, appreciated husk.

I know it won’t be easy. Change is scary, particularly when it exists in the physical form of a person or even a group of persons who carry with them the weight of incredible potential. By talking to them, we’ll maintain our edge and status as top dogs.

Who knows! Maybe you’ll even find a couple that you like.