The Writing Center: My Experience As a “Newbie”

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This was taken about an hour before my interview. I was ecstatic!

It was an oddly sticky, blazing hot October day out around the WIU Macomb campus. It was a Tuesday, as I recall.  I was strutting down the sidewalk in my best clothes, but sweating incessantly through my shear pink blouse.  I tried an hour beforehand to look my best for my very first interview, but my low ponytail ended up making me look less professional and more like Will Turner from Pirates of the Caribbean.  The longer I hiked over towards the Malpass Library, the more I perspired and the more the sun burned my pale, pasty white skin.  I finally arrived at the Library and darted straight up the stairs to the Writing Center for my interview.  I sat and waited for Dr. Baird, and the interview began….and before I knew it, it was finished!

A week later I remember waking up to my phone pinging, signaling that I had received an email.  It was Dr. Baird; he wanted to meet up with me for a second time.  The next day I got ready for the second interview by putting on my warmest wool sweater and winter coat (the weather in Illinois can’t make up its mind).  I hiked up the dreadful hill that leads to Simpkins (we all know the one) and arrived to the entrance of his office.  Within that brief meeting, he announced that I was officially hired for the job.  I shook his hand and promptly clicked my heels together before heading down the staircase; I did it!

Fast forward to the Spring semester…after a long, joyous winter break I walked into the Malpass Library Writing Center for the first time since my interview, and I was once again very nervous. What will the other consultants think of me? I mused.  What if I don’t know as much about writing and grammar usage as I thought?  All sorts of emotions were whirling around my head like a swarm of angry hornets.  I was put somewhat at ease, though, when I figured out I wasn’t the only “newbie” of the semester.  Dr. Baird read off all the content and skills we would be learning as new consultants in the Writing Center.  He then explained to us that for our training, we would be observing our fellow consultants during their sessions and we would also complete three “mock” tutoring sessions.  Here, we would be challenged to react appropriately and professionally given various tutoring situations.

So far, we have been given an “easy” client as well as a “difficult” client. THIS. WAS. TERRIFYING.  I recall the “difficult” mock session to be with Nick, another consultant.  He, twirling his raven locks through his fingers, gave me a stern look and asked, “Why don’t you think my paper is good enough? I can’t believe you think it’s bad!”  Oh man…I thought.  Suddenly I began to sweat just like I had in October.  I searched for the right words and responded with “It’s not bad, I just think it needs some improvement because it doesn’t quite follow your assignment sheet”.  Okay, I thought.  Now you’re on to something.  To be brief, I got through the session and, although a bit frazzled, I actually felt confident.  Although this was a very difficult session to get through, it has been my favorite thus far because it taught me how to handle confrontations in the workplace in a calm and assertive manner.

Thus far, I have learned many useful skills in the Writing Center.  I have learned that it is great fun to work with ELL writers and that they can teach you a great deal about culture and language.  I learned that although it’s scary to make friends with coworkers at first, once you become friends they are some of the sweetest people to hang out with on campus.  Most importantly, what I have learned is that this job has taught me to be confident, assertive, an immensely open-minded to new ideas.  Thanks to the writing center, I have gained a brand-new understanding of the entire writing process and how our aim as consultants is NOT to edit or change a writer’s paper, but to shape a writer’s approach to writing.  So….what I guess I’m trying to say is that maybe being the “newbie” isn’t so bad after all.