Brian Hotson is editor-in-chief of the WLNBlog and Director of Academic Learning Services at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, NS.
Each August, our centre holds a two-day Summer Writing Workshop. Its main purpose is to provide incoming, first-year students an opportunity to experience writing at a university level prior to September. It’s also a chance for students to make friends and meet professors. There is a lecture from which students use as a means to write a short paper, the instruction of the two days focussed on this paper. Usually 70-75 students—of an incoming class of 900-1200 students—register. The program is voluntary with a fee of $200, which includes materials and meals.
As an icebreaker on day one, I give each student two file cards. On one card, I asked them to write their name and something they’d like others to know about themselves. On a second card, I ask them to write a question they like to ask a professor (we have a Q&A with professors at the end of day two), and what they are most afraid of in coming to university. Many of our students are first generation students. Their expectations of themselves are very high, without any experience of how such expectations might be met.
I have kept these cards over the years. Each is a personal account of a young person on the threshold. The anonymity of the cards provides a startlingly frank openness into these students’ emotion. For me, it’s not the fear that is insightful, but the bravery of their openness and their willingness to use this openness to try something new.
University is a chance to learn from mistakes. Drafting is an ongoing second chance, a means to understanding the process of thinking, as well as thinking about thinking. I read these cards before my opening talk of the workshop. I try to insert into the talk words from the cards, and let the other staff presenting during the workshop know of the contents of the cards. This one I keep pinned to my bulletin board.
Why y’all so closed minded? Who y’all think y’all is telling folks how they can or cannot write? If you are capable of understanding what I am saying while speaking in my own language, why should I be forced to write in “Standard English”? For those who don’t know, “Standard English” is the only form of the English language widely accepted as the “correct” form. When I refer to speaking, I’m talking about writing how I speak. For example, I don’t always pronounce erry letter in a word, or I might pronounce a letter differently. If you can understand what it is I’m sayin’ and writtin’, why do I need to write in yo language? As tutors, we should teach students to perfect their own language because if enough students prove that they can write formally in they own dialect, maybe society will began to accept it.
My intention is to explain why forcing students to write in society’s version of “correct English” rather than their own is doing more harm than benefit. I believe that helping students perfect their own dialect would benefit more than forcing them to learn and write what you think is correct. To help support my claim, I reference “Should writer’s use they own English?” by Vershawn Ashanti Young.
When people are forced to learn to read or write a certain way and basically told that their way of speaking is incorrect, they began to feel ignorant: “One set of rules that people be applyin to everbody’s dialects leads to perceptions that writers need ‘remedial training’ or that speaker’s dialects are dumb” (Young 112). This is exactly why y’all shouldn’t be forcing your dialects on others because you make ‘em feel dumb. This could lead to a number of things; people could give up on writing, or people would be forced to write in a way which they are not comfortable in, causing them to fail. All of which could be prevented by helping them perfect they own dialect.
Happy New Year from WLN! Here is some of what has been on our news radar lately:
New year, new journal. Looking to set a resolution for the new year? This post suggests that writing daily in a journal can yield benefits ranging from bolstering creativity to helping you lose weight. [Upworthy]
Write Here connects students and community. Student tutors from Westminster College in Utah are providing tutoring to community members of the city of South Salt Lake through a program called Write Here. Tutors work with community members on tasks ranging from writing personal narratives to homework. [KSL]
Technology trends enter the classroom. From wearable technology to virtual reality, 2016’s technology trends are poised to enter higher education. What kind of new technology would you most want to see used in your writing lab? [EdTech]
Can setting goals change your life? Research shows that expressive writing combined with goal-setting, a process that Dr. Jordan Peterson of the University of Toronto calls “self-authoring” can aid in motivation for students, especially among at-risk populations.[NPR]
Editor’s note: Jill Gladstein shares an update on the always growing #IntlWriteIn event!
At this moment, there are 88 schools from 5 countries set to host an international write-in event between Dec. 1-10. The current list of schools is below. Some are hosting an event for the first time while others are old pros at this point. The Swarthmore folks will do our best to keep tabs on how things unfold via social media, but others should feel free to help out to create a buzz. We have adopted the hashtag #intlwritein. If you use this hashtag on any social media platform, the event tagboard should pick it up. You don’t need to be hosting an event to use the hashtag. Feel free to add to the buzz by sharing a scene from your writing center.
I can’t wait to see how this event unfolds on the different campuses. We know that schools have adjusted the event to fit their campus, which is what matters most. If we can get the event buzzing on social media, that’s a bonus. I like to think of the social media buzz as getting the wave moving around a stadium. It’s exciting if and when it happens, but the success of the wave shouldn’t impact the game on the field.
The Winter 2014 (Vol. 18, Iss. 4) Issue of Academic Exchange Quarterly, an independent double-blind-peer-reviewed print journal, is now accepting submissions for its special section on Writing Center Theory and Practice. Articles may explore issues of theory, practice, and experience in writing center work, including qualitative and empirical studies and discussions of pedagogy.
Articles may also consider the following: How writing center professionals cope with change and the eventuality of needing to expand their efforts in response to new economic and demographic challenges. Furthermore, as we move towards increasingly virtual and technologically dependent learning communities, how can these efforts help meet the evolving demands of our students?
In addition to Writing Center Directors and other Administrators, submissions are welcome from professional staff, faculty tutors, and graduate students who work in the writing center. Manuscript length should be between 2,000 and 3,000 words. Please identify your submission with the keyword “Center-2.”
Writing Enriched, Writing Enhanced: Writing Centers and Writing Across the Curriculum as Partners and Agents for Change
Call for Proposals – NEWCA 2013
University of New Hampshire
April 13-14, 2013
Proposals due by January 4, 2013
Keynote Speakers: Susanmarie Harrington & Sue Dinitz, University of Vermont
Call for Proposals
Throughout the Northeast, writing centers are emerging from the Great Recession as leaner and more innovative units. Our realities vary by geography and institutions, but we share a bond of helping writers and learners whose needs often exceed the historical boundaries of English composition and rhetoric courses. We also embrace a common set of values around mentoring writers in ways that help them better understand process, particularly in how meta-awareness creates possibilities to scaffold between assignments, courses and experiences. Writing centers exist as powerful sites from which the competing and complementing demands of discourses, disciplines and conventions become legible and actionable as students move across and within curricula. Writing across the Curriculum Programs, often partners with writing centers, work with students and faculty alike to challenge received ways and genres of writing in the disciplines, to reinvigorate the nexus of writing to learn/learning to write, and to foster awareness of communities of practice and local conventions of expressions. Most importantly, these partners can enact change through vital conversations about teaching, learning, and writing. Continue reading “2013 NEWCA Call for Proposals!”→