What to Expect When You’re UCWbLing: reflecting on first shifts at the UCWbL

By January 14, 2015Peer Writing Tutoring

For a new writing center employee, walking down the brick paths of the SAC to your first shift at the UCWbL can be a thrill-ride of anxiety and excitement. Uncovering the mystery that waits behind the glass windows of the Lincoln Park Center, or braving the sixteen floor elevator ride in the Loop can be scary — especially without the grounding of some advice from someone who walked in your shoes.


Fear not! After reading this post, you will understand, comprehensively, what to expect in your first shifts at the UCWbL.


(Note: the use of the word “comprehensively” was in no way appropriate -please consult the employee handbook for any serious concerns)

Expect Names:

When entering the center for the first time, expect to be blindsided by more names than you’ve had to learn since moving into your freshman dorm. Expect to ask for names. Repeatedly. Expect to be asked for your name. Repeatedly. Expect to be confused when another UCWbLer knows your name before the two of you have spoken, and expect to be surprised when you realize why they do.

One of the things I recognized during my first shift was that names in the writing center are not hard to learn. Maybe it’s the chummy work environment. Maybe it’s the knowledge that everyone wants to be right where they are. Maybe it’s some chemical in the K-cups. Either way, don’t be worried. Even if you’re bad with names, like me, you will find yourself replacing your hey-man’s with jolly, name-specific greetings in no time.

Expect DIY:


Having worked at restaurants since I was thirteen, I understand the motivation that comes from a manager’s evil-eye. However, having worked at the UCWbL, I now understand the motivation that comes from making your own choices. Expect to be left alone, and expect to still do what you have to do.

The culture at the UCWbL is not a pushy one. While you are accountable for the quality of your work, don’t expect to have trouble getting it done, and getting it done right. Though surrounded by nice, social people, they are all doing their work, and expect that it won’t be hard for you to do your own, even without a superior looking over your shoulder.

Expect Value:

Everyone who has worked a service or retail job knows how useless one can feel at work. Whether on a slow day, or a day when no-one seems to need your help, the “what am I doing here” thought is common in many jobs. Expect not to have that at the UCWbL.

Expect to be teaching. Expect to be work-shopping. Expect to be learning — all of the time. During my first shifts at the writing center, I never greeted a writer and wondered why I was there. I didn’t observe an appointment without learning something. I was never observed without finding a new issue to work on. I still haven’t felt useless. You won’t feel useless either. If nothing else, my work at the UCWbL has been fulfilling. If you take the job seriously, expect it to deliver satisfaction. In droves.


Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Maggie C. says:

    I laughed out loud at the name part–I struggled with names for the longest time. This post was an excellent introduction to the things you aren’t warned about when tutoring for the first time at the UCWbL. Thanks for writing this!

  • Rachel P. says:

    As a fellow new UCWbLer, I identified with your observations about what it’s like to come into the work environment here – there’s a big learning curve! I also liked your comments about the friendly, self-motivated culture here at the UCWbL. I had similar impressions starting here. =]

  • Andrew D. says:

    I agree with the value section. I’ve worked two retail jobs in my life. One was at a suit store, the other was at Godiva Chocolate. I can’t tell you how many times I was debased working behind the register during the holiday season. With a line out the door, customers would make ridiculous requests like, “Oh can you actually re-wrap this? I’ve decide I want the green ribbon now.” Or, they’d even come back and try to use the same gift card twice saying, “It must be a system error,” when it wouldn’t charge. They thought we’d forget their faces. But in retail, your face recognition abilities increase tenfold.

    Basically, I place high value on this Writing Center job because I am learning all the time, and I get to have good conversations as opposed to picking truffles from a case.