Core Beliefs of the Writing Center

I’ve been struggling a little bit with the writing center and its concepts. Aside from my last interaction with my response which I mentioned in another entry, I have been in disagreement with the fundamental principles it has. However, I’m slowly coming to terms with them.

The core idea of the Writing Center can best be explained by today’s meeting:

Our boss is of course also an English teacher at the college, as is her husband (I even had his class when I was a Running Start student). She, as a result, has access of papers that we, as the Writing Center Staff, can use as practice. She brought to us today a paper in which the voice of the writer was very prominent – the reader knew exactly the gender and style of the person without the writer even mentioning it. The paper was one long string of thought, five pages compiled of just as many paragraphs. We were to read the paper and respond to it as if we were doing an online video response (we use Jing for such things, and thus refer to this task as Making a Jing). My initial reaction, when reading it, was to (politely, and kindly) tear into the style and structure, correct some of the grammatical errors, talk about punctuation, forming paragraphs around single ideas which were explained – and so on.

However, as we got into the paper as a group and discussed it, we realized the value of this person’s voice and how was actually an asset to the paper. When we took a step back and forgot the structures, and looked at it as a reader that just picked up an article in a magazine, we realized it was actually quite a good paper, and the only thing really that could have been altered was the introduction of the references in the paper.

Toward the end of the meeting, each group stated what we would tell the author in a Jing, and then our boss summarized our goal. She reminded us that if we were to take out the style of the paper, a great deal of the meaning would be lost. Not only that, but the idea flow of the writer as they were writing the paper would have halted as well, since they would be so focussed on fitting into the box that it would detract from the message of the paper. Instead of saying no, ___________ can’t be used in an academic paper, we needed to be saying:

“Yes, we want to be able to think with you.”

This is actually a very powerful statement. It means that the reader is along the journey with the writer opposed to judging the writer. Essays, analyses, poems, books, musings, blog entries, songs – they are all the brain displayed on paper. To put structure on it limits the brain. As long as the message is clear to the reader, then no structure need be applied.

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