graduate school · personal

learning curves

This semester has been an adjustment. That’s not an evaluative statement. It’s just different, not teaching, having a more rigid schedule than I have in quite some time, and working in a new environment. There’s a learning curve taking place as I figure out what I know from the classroom that helps at the tutoring table, and what doesn’t work in a different environment.

The main challenge so far is coping with the frustration I feel when a client (we call ourselves consultants and our tutees clients in or writing center) is struggling not because of their own lack of effort, but because of a lack of clarity on the part of the instructors. I look at assignment sheets for essays that I’ve taught, for an essay sequence I had a hand in developing, and I don’t understand where the teacher is going with it, and feel that they aren’t even teaching the same sequence or in the same universe as I am. I’m frustrated when a writing client is stressed and near-panic because she asks a prof for help and the prof says “I don’t know what I want you to do. But this isn’t it.”

And then I have to dial it back and realize that my students might say similar things about me. And it really makes me think about how we communicate expectations to our students, and then how they interpret and communicate those expectations to others.

While I’m learning how to work in the Writing Center, I’m also learning how to do my own writing and work again. Somehow, in the process of graduate school, I forgot how to articulate my own argument. My voice kept getting lost amidst all the research, amidst all the scholars that I was trying to work with. As an undergrad and an MA student, I used to do all my reading, then write a draft of the paper, just my opinion, no other sources. Then, somehow, once I got to the PhD program, I started writing about the sources first, and then couldn’t find my way back to my own argument. So I’m working on articulating my opinion first, and then inviting others into the conversation. The difference became clear to me as I was talking to a student yesterday about creating a conversation with their sources. It’s sort of been like being at a party and waiting on the fringes of a group of people I want to talk to, but not feeling like I have anything valuable to say. And now, when I work on articulating my stance and setting up my framework first, it’s much more like coming to the party and just joining in, without waiting for an invitation. It’s acknowledging that I belong at the party.

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