Editors’ note: One of our editorial goals this year has been to “spotlight” writing centers around the world. In an effort to align with the blog’s mission to “connect writing centers across borders,” once a month, we invite a writing center administrator from an international writing center to share a few words (400-500) introducing us to their center. This semester, we have spotlighted a writing center at The Haigazian University in Lebanon and another at Daystar University in Kenya. For our May spotlight, we share an introduction to the Hisar Writing Center in Istanbul, Turkey, by its director, Jeff Gibbs. To learn more, visit their website by clicking here.
The Hisar Writing Center is headquartered at Hisar School in Istanbul, Turkey, a progressive K-12 institution founded in 1996. Our main center serves 859 middle and high school students in grades five through twelve, while our affiliate, Writing Center Junior, focuses on our primary school students. Our center’s goal reflects the school’s mission. We aim to build a community confident and fluent in the writing process, a community that sees writing as a tool for learning and developing critical thinking.
The Hisar Writing Center is brand new and one of the only secondary school centers in the region. We began operations in the fall semester with a staff of two faculty. We trained four classes of high school tutors in a two-hour a week elective course. Our tutor candidates were selected by their English teachers on the basis of grades, writing skills, and leadership potential, then asked to fill out applications designed to measure their commitment and ability. Using The Bedford Guide for Writing Tutors by Leigh Ryan and Liza Zimmerelli as our textbook, we trained our tutors in writing center philosophy and technique until they were ready to manage their own sessions. We began regular peer tutoring in January of 2020 and since then, have conducted over one hundred and twenty-three sessions. As of this writing, our total number of appointments for the 2019-2020 school year, combining peer-run and teacher-run sessions, is two hundred and forty-two, an impressive number, we hope, for a center’s first year.
In addition to tutoring, our student staff has taken on the role of entrepreneurs. They have spearheaded social media marketing campaigns, helped create advertisements, assisted in determining center schedules and policies, and led promotional events. Two of our most successful events have been the Night Against Procrastination, a concept created by our colleagues at the Writing Center of the European University of Viadrina. Twice a year, the center hosts an all-night event for students to gather and finish projects under the guidance of Writing Center staff and tutors. In addition, we initiated Writing Flash Mobs, where, in league with classroom teachers, we arranged surprise writing drop-in lessons targeting specific writing goals.
In keeping with our mission, we have not limited ourselves to our work with students. We have also collaborated with departments throughout the school to encourage writing as a tool across curriculums. The middle school collaborations have been especially fruitful. We helped the social studies department develop a final assessment where students used fiction techniques to write a story bringing that unit’s history lesson to life. We also worked with the middle school science department on lab reports and helped the school’s community service department develop a curriculum for their own team of peer tutors.
We have been extremely fortunate to have full institutional support and an enthusiastic staff eager to work with us. We hope to take the energy and optimism of this year and build an even stronger program next year.
Jeff Gibbs currently serves as the Director of Hisar School’s Writing Center and also head of the middle school English Department. He is also an aspiring writer himself and has had short stories, essays, and poems published in literary magazines throughout North America and Turkey. He has been teaching for over twenty years in the U.S., Japan, and now Turkey. He is assisted at the Hisar Writing Center by Stephen Freer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Stephen Freer hails from Georgia in the U.S. He has been an English teacher for over ten years and has taught middle school and high school in Turkey and Lithuania. This is his first year in the Writing Center. In addition to his Writing Center duties, he also teachers 6th grade English.
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