Guest Post Wednesday: The Writing Center

Wednesday snuck up on me this week, as it has so many other weeks. The problem this time, however, was that I did not have a backlog of guest posts at my disposal. Yes, the Schmexas arsenal is depleted (hint, hint). In lieu of a “guest” post today, here’s something I’ve been meaning to write about.

A chapter in my life recently came to a close. I wish I could say that it was a chapter called “graduate school,” but unfortunately the thesis isn’t written yet.

I did, however, work my final shift in the Writing Center.

Truth be told, I liked working there. (During my two-year stint as writing consultant, I even made my very own YouTube promotional video, though at the time I was told it was required of all consultants. I didn’t do it for the heck of it.)

Even on the worst days with the most frustrating “clients” (I hate that word), or when we were swamped and, during my sole half-hour of freedom because someone cancelled, the receptionist came to tell me that there was a walk-in and I had to take it, well, even on those days, I liked it.

Overall.

Usually.

It should be noted that this is not the common opinion among graduate writing center consultants.

The things I’ve liked most about working there–apart from feeling like I’m qualified to do this job–have to do with community. This is a surprise to you, I’m sure.

Among the community of consultants, for example, I’ve met grad students from other disciplines I would have otherwise not met, gotten to know my fellow English graduate students better as we’ve griped together and vented and (yes, really) rejoiced when things were going well or when three appointments in a row were no-shows, and interacted with some really talented undergraduates. Because we sit in library carrels, we often overheard each other during our appointments. We fielded questions differently, reacted to belligerent writers differently, encouraged good writers differently: I figure it’s always good to be reminded that your way is not the best or only way to do something. And this semester, my friend Ashley was typically next door to me on Thursdays. It wasn’t uncommon for me to suddenly hear, “Elizabeth?” coming through the carrel wall. “Can you think of another word for…?” or “I know MLA says this, but what does APA do with…?”

The fact that I find answering these questions fun is a testament to my nerdiness.

But getting to know the folks who came in to the writing center seeking assistance, especially the repeat appointments, the ones who requested me, over and over and over, seeing their progress, getting to know their research, helping them with applications to further graduate degrees–this was probably my favorite thing about the writing center.

I’ve avoided writing about all of this here at Texas Schmexas because I’ve been told (over and over again) that there are huge legal issues involving privacy laws.

But one brief story is worth telling here, minus any incriminating details, as the writing center and I part ways.

This last semester I worked quite a bit with a fellow from overseas who had received a grant to come and do research in Kentucky. (That sentence is generic enough to fit a handful of the writers I’ve worked with recently.) More than is usual in these cases, it was a struggle to communicate with him because of the language barrier.

The day of his last appointment in the writing center, before he returned to his home country, I was having a bad day. My husband, J, was out of town, and it was the last day before Spring Break. It was a day I didn’t feel like being patient, with explaining the usage of a, an, and the yet again, with talking about verb tenses or subject-verb agreement. I was feeling frustrated that I wasn’t going to make a difference anyway in the context of this person’s writing, and, quite frankly, I was a little snippy.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t noticeably snippy. Anyone listening in on the appointment probably would have said that I was as patient and calm as I normally am. But I knew I was being snippy. And I didn’t even care.

At the end of the appointment, which was the last one of the day, I walked him up to the door to shake his hand and wish him luck. But he paused by the front table to say thank you. To say thank you.

Then he unzippered his backpack, and pulled out a wrapped present. A wrapped present.

For me.

_______________

If you’ve been thinking about writing a guest post for Texas Schmexas, now’s a perfect opportunity. Click up on “Guest Posts” for more information, or, if you want to wade through previous guest posts, select “Guest” from the drop-down menu over on the right side of the screen called “The Topics.” If you’re not a writer, go guilt recruit someone else to do it. I want their stories.

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2 comments on “Guest Post Wednesday: The Writing Center

  1. Faith says:

    Maybe it’s the end of the semester, maybe I just got an unsuspecting birthday card from four seniors who are graduating, or maybe it’s just that I’m a teary mess today, but thank God for the kleenex box on my desk after reading that. Beautiful.

    • elizabeth says:

      Thanks, Faith. 🙂 And happy birthday!

      By the way, your “15 before 30” list inspired me to start working on my own list… I’m sure there’s a blog post or two in that one of these days.

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