More Than One Write Answer | How The Writing Center Helps Tutors Too
EDITOR’S NOTE: Lots of people are passionate about writing. Typically this means they are passionate about their own writing. However, there is something special about those writers whose passion pushes them to want to help others find and foster their own writing ability, maybe even their own passion for writing.
Megan Breidenstein has worked in UM-Flint’s Marian E. Wright Writing Center for four years doing exactly that.
Megan graduated from UM-Flint with a bachelor’s degree in English, specializing in writing. She then earned a master’s degree in English with a concentration in composition and rhetoric. Megan knows that not everyone who walks into the Writing Center has dreams of becoming the next Christopher Paul Curtis. But she does know writing, like reading, is a skill required for success in any field.
In the following piece, Megan writes about her own personal experience of asking for help and overcoming a challenge, a perspective she brings to her work as a Writing Center tutor everyday.
— Bob Mabbitt
About a year ago, I found myself writing a blog post that revealed a secret that I had been dealing with for a majority of my life. It was not something I would find myself discussing with my friends or colleagues. I felt that by posting this secret, and letting the whole world in on it, that it would be an inspiration for others to overcome a challenge in their life no matter what it would be, in order to continue with their dreams. For me, it felt like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders when I let the words fall to the computer screen. My secret you ask? I have a speech impediment.
Having a speech impediment can vary. Some suffer from a stutter while others have a lisp. For me, it is the difficulty with pronouncing certain words, especially consonant clusters, or words lacking vowels between consonants. Throughout middle and high school, having this minor impediment caused me little to no concern. However, when I entered into college and realized what I wanted to do with my life, I found that it would pose a problem.
As an undergraduate student at UM-Flint, I worked in the Marian E. Wright Writing Center on campus. It was working there I found what I wanted to do for the rest of my life—writing center work and instructing first-year college writers, ideally both. Yet I discovered that writing center work had me doing a lot of talking. During appointments in the writing center, the tutor will read the tutee’s paper aloud so the words can be heard in someone else’s voice. A few weeks into my first semester working at the writing center, I started coming across those dreaded consonant clusters. Without thinking, I would mumble over the words so I would not have to struggle to pronounce each one. The tutee never seemed to notice or be bothered by this, so I continued my practice.
However, this practice made me feel inadequate as a tutor and made me worry as to how I would be fit to work in the field of writing and writing centers. An instructor who cannot pronounce the words in the book? I could hear the students laughing in my mind. When I approached my writing center director, Dr. Jacob Blumner, he offered me strategies to implement during appointments to improve my issue.
- I could inform the tutee beforehand I have a speech impediment and I may stumble over certain words.
- Instead of struggling to pronounce difficult words, I could ask the tutee if I could say ‘T-word’ or ‘K-word’ as a replacement for the actual word.
I felt that the first option made me seem incapable of providing appropriate advice—of course I now know that is far from true—and I leaned toward the option of asking students if I could say ‘T-word’ or ‘K-word’ instead.
This practice has worked well during appointments over the past four years. When I sit down with the tutee, I glance over the paper and look for constant clusters. I ask the student if it is fine to just say ‘T-word’ instead, and almost always I am greeted with a smile and a yes. I discovered, when observing other tutors during appointments, they too would implement this practice—mainly because Biology papers proved hard to read aloud. I realized that even if I cannot say all words in a book, it does not mean I cannot be an adequate writing instructor, or tutor. When faced with a challenge in my life, I overcame it and pursued my dreams.
The Marian E. Wright Writing Center is located in French Hall, room 559. Tutors who work in the writing center are from all educational backgrounds and can assist any writer with any stage of the writing process. Through inquiry and collaboration, the tutor and tutee will read the paper aloud and discuss global and local issues. The tutor will provide the tutee with positive feedback and writing strategies that can be implemented in any writing situation.
The writing center is also a place to come and be surrounded by other writers. Feel free to stop up and talk with a tutor or just sit in a comfy chair and do some writing.