Always in Beta: Incorporating Choice and Encouraging a Sense of Ownership by Revamping Tutor Training in a Secondary School Writing Center

Kate Hutton is the President of the Secondary School Writing Centers Association (formerly CAPTA) and co-director of the Herndon Writing Center at Herndon High School in Fairfax County, VA. Kate has presented on two IWCA-sponsored panels of Secondary School Writing Centers: “Writing Centers as Sites of Advocacy” (2016) and “Writing Center Revolutions in the Contact Zone” (2017). She is looking forward to presenting on her third IWCA-sponsored panel and leading the Writing Center SIG at NCTE 2018.

 

My mantra as co-director of the Herndon Writing Center (HWC) has long been “we’re always in beta.” Each year presents a unique challenge either within our center or our larger school community that we seek to address through the work of our center. Some years, we’ve sought to make our space more inviting for our school’s growing population of English Language Learners, while other years, we’ve worked to develop a community of writers and a culture of writing in our school.

This year’s challenge? How do we offer quality, ongoing tutor training and foster a sense of ownership in our center when we have an abundance of enthusiastic, dedicated tutors and a scarcity of time to formally come together to discuss tutoring best practices and make plans?

The Herndon Writing Center is a student-run, teacher-directed space where all students at our very large, very diverse suburban high school in Fairfax County, Virginia can work with a peer tutor on their writing. While there are many models of implementation for SSWCs, which include opening all day thanks to tutors who give up a study hall period or opening only before or after school, the HWC operates through a course called Advanced Composition, an advanced writing elective that was originally revised and repurposed by Amber Jensen of Edison High School to house writing centers in Fairfax County Public Schools. Students may apply to become tutors and enroll in Advanced Composition beginning in their Sophomore year, and once accepted, they may enroll in the course every year until they graduate.

HWC Tutors at CAPTA 2017

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