Trying to Say Goodbye

Well it has been awhile. I have struggled with something worthwhile to say when none of my fellow classmates are here to help or draft ideas with the new blog headmaster. I mean it is the summertime and while no one is writing much unless keeping an avid account of their Pokemon Go escapades on Facebook, it makes sustaining the life of the blog difficult. Nonetheless, this blog is a special one.

I have decided to come out of recluse and turn the spotlight on not just writing and creating something beautiful but to shine a light on someone that does that everyday. Someone that made all of this possible. For if not for she, I would not be writing this new installment to our Summer 2016 blog.

Dr. Sunny Hawkins.

This is officially the first week without our beloved director. Soon we will be closing for the summer and will not reopen until September where we will be director-less.

She was the director at Texas A&M University-Kingsville Undergraduate Writing Center, having brought this wonderful establishment from a couple of tables and chairs to a room full of bright hopeful students working towards not just a great paper but a greater skill set. She breathed life into what is now today’s most dedicated group of individuals coming into work everyday loving what they do. When I was first hired for the job I didn’t realize there was more to this job than just revising papers. You actually were still the student as well; not just a tutor. Sure I was helping students out with grammatical mishaps but it was the lesson of invoking cooperation that really made me open my eyes. You don’t just sit there and let someone look over your paper without being involved, you, yourself must be an active noggin present in the reconstruction of your paper. I didn’t get that at first, but if it wasn’t for Dr. Sunny’s informative training sessions it would not have helped a lot of the tutors at the writing center sit up and take control of the work they should be doing. In a sense it made me have more respect for myself in regards to my duty as a tutor. We as tutors are not mere Stop-and-Drops but expressive souls that need something to feel proud of, and I feel proud of the work I do for the clients that seek our help. When I know I did my absolute best to help them I know I go home feeling like I did my part for the UWC.

This establishment is not just a writing center but a place where so many things are learned and created. Bonds, friendships, memories, parties, fun and most importantly knowledge are always in bloom. It probably won’t always be like this at our future jobs. Coming in wearing sweat pants, watching Netflix on downtime, playing a vicious game of Bananagrams or having impromptu pizza parties doesn’t seem like an everyday ordeal at the office, the emergency room or kindergarten classroom. College really is a time to enjoy ourselves and I am so gracious to Dr. Sunny for keeping that environment strong at the UWC.

I emailed shortly before she was to depart and I asked her one question: What did it mean to you to work for the writing center? She emailed back a response that makes the Order of the Phoenix look shy. I decided to share the parts of her response that I felt speak volumes on what this place is all about and the legacy she leaves behind.

Dear Tutors:

The first time I set foot in our Writing Center, it was empty.

It was just after New Year’s, and the spring semester hadn’t started yet. I remember turning on the lights, looking around at those hideous hardback chairs, and smiling. Because I knew, very soon, the magic that animates all Writing Centers would begin to animate this one.

What makes a Writing Center magical? It has nothing to do with the number of computers, printers, tables, couches, or coffeemakers it has. It has nothing to do with the color of the walls, the height of the bookshelves, or the view out the windows (or lack thereof). In a very real sense, it has nothing to do with who sits in the director’s chair. The magic of a Writing Center is created by its tutors, in every interaction you have with the students and faculty who come to us for help.

Very soon I will walk out of our Writing Center for the last time. But I am not leaving it empty. You, every one of you, has filled it with the magic only you could bring to it. Your different personalities, your unique talents, are woven into the fabric of helping writers find their voices, whether you worked with them once for twenty minutes, or twenty times over a single semester.

If I had to leave you with any advice, it would be this. #1) Stay curious. Not knowing something is not a disadvantage; it’s an opportunity to learn something new. If you want to stay young forever, never stop learning. #2) Stay open. Stay idealistic. Remember that the world is not what you see on the news. It is a vast and fascinating place, and most of the people in it are good, and kind, and honest. #3) Most importantly, stay yourself. Don’t let someone else’s definition of beauty, happiness, or success define you. Figure yourself out day by day, minute by minute. Stay aware. Stay present. Stay awake, as much as all the distractions of our world – Facebook; Pokemon; Instagram; Netflix; Amazon – may try to anesthetize you, to turn you into mindless, well-conformed consumers. Be more than that. Be you. Remember that, as Nakagawa Soen-Roshi once said, “all are nothing but flowers / in a flowing universe.” Know that inside you, after all, there is magic. Now more than ever, the world needs you to use it.

Blessed be,

Dr. Sunny”

 

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She is understanding, caring, considerate, fair, funny, realistic and wholeheartedly the kindest person you  will ever meet. I am so lucky I met her-even got to work for her. She’s the boss you wish for. Dr. Sunny sure is a rarity. We are all going to miss her. I very much envy the people that started off working with her from the very beginning but at least I was able to take on so many projects and responsibilities for her. This truly is my dream job. A place where you can relax, stay focused on school but not exactly lose your mind over it; this is a place where you only get stronger as you go along and it’s all because someone so vigorously fantastic was lifting it up with her hands.

Dr. Sunny you will be missed so dearly cows will moo for you in a soft distance where ever you are, whoever you are enchanting with the effervescent knowledge you will be feeding to your new batch of seedlings in St. Louis. The UWC will be lost for a little bit without your sunny guidance but eventually we shall chug on with a new director. At least we know she/he won’t have to whip us into shape, you have molded us so perfectly. We are probably going to be the best crew she/he could be dealt with. However, he has some soft shoes to don on. No one rigid could wear your shoes unless they loosen up a little bit and decide to do a little dance and realize this is more than just a job but an opportunity to make a difference just as you have. Otherwise those shoes are going to be too soft to keep from falling off.

 

Writers Unite: Knowing when you need help

by Beth Cantu, Peer Tutor

I have a ridiculous nightmare every semester around this time, but this one was different.

I was standing in front of my colleagues and a panel of professors, presenting my senior project. But all that was coming out of my mouth was gibberish. I was only halfway through when the Dean of our department raises their hand and says, “How did you even get this far?” They stamp a huge “F” on my paper, and suddenly I’m watching graduation, my graduation, from the bleachers, a sea of black caps with white tassels dance below me.

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I woke up this morning anxious and sweaty. Even now as I’m here at work writing this, I’m still shaken. I know the nightmare will likely not come true, but I feel that I have to focus now even more than ever.

I used to be too proud to ask anyone for help with my writing, even before I worked here at the UWC. I rarely asked my colleagues to proofread for me. I was the self-proclaimed queen of grammar and MLA format; everyone came to me for help.

One of my assignments for my 19th Century Brit Lit class was on H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine (even as I type that name, I’m shuddering in fear), and I was feeling more confident than usual. Dystopia is my game, and I felt like I had this one in the bag.

When papers were handed back, I smiled at my professor, but she seemed to evade eye contact. Rather than passing the paper back through the line of classmates before me, she walked over to me and set the paper upside down on my desk. “Not your best work,” she whispered. When I flipped it over, the paper had a huge purple “C” on the first page.

To you, a “C” on one paper is probably not a huge deal, but I wasn’t used to getting anything lower than a “B” on any kind of assignment. The whole event shook me to my core. I started rethinking my career path. Maybe I wasn’t that good of a writer. How did I expect to succeed in graduate school if I couldn’t even write a junior level paper correctly?

Dramatics aside, I was really doing fine in the class. And, in hindsight, that paper wasn’t actually that bad. It wasn’t that great, but, after having just brought myself to read it again, I realized that my professor knew I was capable of doing better work.

I have had this professor nearly every semester since I started college, so she knows how stubborn I can be. She knew a “bad” grade would light a fire inside me, and push me toward a higher level thinking.

For the next assignment I had, I asked one of my best friends, Bekah (who, coincidentally, works at the writing center with me now) to help me outline, organize, and proofread my paper. Not only did my grades go up (higher than what I was getting before!), but I noticed completing my writing assignments became easier and faster. I was also getting better at self-editing.

Now that I work here at the University Writing Center, I always make sure I schedule appointments for myself for each assignment, and I always suggest to my friends that they do the same.

It is not uncommon that I have a client that insists they don’t have to be here, and they just need a client report form for their class. I never hesitate to tell them that everyone needs help at some point, and even I come in to ensure that my writing is at its best.

I’ve been going in and out of the writing center, scrambling to get my big senior project done, and tomorrow is the BIG DAY. Hopefully, all of this hard work (from not only myself, but with the help of my fellow tutors) pays off!

I’ve come to notice English majors/minors are notoriously reluctant about asking for help, especially from non-English major tutors. Part of this stems from the desire to speak with people who understand our courses, our theories, and our level of analysis.

In order to help, the University Writing Center @ TAMUK is teaming up with the English Club and hosting a “Writers Unite!” Writing Marathon, a mass writing session FOR English Majors, BY English Majors. You can bring in your ideas or your assignment, and you are able to discuss your topics with other English Majors, while Writing Tutors are available to help with things like organization, citations, and grammar! We will have snacks and fun study break activities for you to enjoy. You can also earn tickets to win awesome prizes! This will take place on Dead Day (May 5) from 12PM-8PM in the UWC. For more information, come down to the University Writing Center on the second floor of the library or check out TAMUK English Club on Facebook. You can also email theenglishclubtamuk@gmail.com.

P.S. If you are not an English Major, but are taking an English or another writing intensive course, you are still more than welcome to join us!

Until next time!

Beth

From the Director’s Chair: The Writing Life

It should surprise no one that the life of the writer – such as it is – is colorless to the point of sensory deprivation. Many writers do little else but sit in small rooms recalling the real world. Writers … surround themselves with other writers, deliberately to enforce in themselves the ludicrous notion that a reasonable option for occupying yourself on the planet until your life span plays itself out is sitting in a small room for the duration, in the company of pieces of paper. – Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

I don’t mean to put off those who come to or work in the Writing Center and have no interest in being a novelist, playwright, poet, fan fiction author, travel writer, or any other kind of scribe once their college days are over. But, because I do encounter many tutors and students who want to be “writers” of one stripe or another, I wanted to share some thoughts about what the writing life really is.

Here’s a happy thought: I don’t think the writing life is captured by the above quote from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Dillard in her memoir, The Writing Life. I have great respect for Dillard, and I’ve read a lot of her work; but so much of the writing process Dillard describes is frankly tortured – holing herself up in a freezing New England cabin; sealing off the window in her library carrel to block out any view of the outside world; denying herself food and living on cigarettes and coffee while composing, agonizing through one or two sentences a day – and I think she fails to realize how much of that has to do with her personality, rather than with writing.

I am a novelist. (I write under the pen names Raven Snow and Jesse Daro; I’ll put a link to my author’s website below, if you’re interested.) I don’t say that as shameless self-promotion – okay, maybe a little bit, but mostly as evidence of my ethos. In one way or another, I have been writing since I was eight years old. That’s almost twenty-nine years of “the writing life.” I think that gives me room to talk about how a writer lives, and works.
I get up everyday at five o’clock in the morning to write. (If that sounds like torture to you, don’t worry – I’m not telling you all writers must wake up at five o’clock to write. I’m being de-scriptive here, not pre-scriptive.) The first thing I do is walk my little dog, Isabella. Then I scramble her an egg and cook myself some steel-cut oats with cinnamon and blueberries, and read a little bit while I’m enjoying breakfast. Once I’ve got my coffee and my peppermint gum – yes, I chew gum while I drink coffee; I never claimed not to be weird – I set my iPhone to “do not disturb” and set its timer for exactly one hour, 1:00:00. Then I curl up on the couch with pen and paper, and for one solid hour, I write.

Many days, this is the only writing I get done, but it is an hour’s worth of writing, everyday. I have a linear process – I start with word one of the book, and end with the last word, no jumping around or scene-skipping – but I think this process would work even if, someday, that process becomes more fragmented for me. It helps me be motivated to know I only have to write for one hour. I don’t have to meet a word count or a page count; I just have to spend one hour producing fresh prose, moving the story that much further ahead than it was the day before. One of my favorite poets and old graduate school alums, Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum, has said he doesn’t believe a writer needs to write everyday, especially if trying to do so gets in the way of things like exercising, spending time with your significant other, or enjoying the things in life that aren’t writing; I agree with him on almost every bit of that, except for me, I find that if I take a break from writing, even for a day, my project tends to lose steam. Here Dillard and I agree: “A work in progress quickly becomes feral…If you skip a visit or two, a work in progress will turn on you.” Thus my compromise is one hour a day devoted to whatever it is I’m writing.

Notice, though, that it is an hour of writing. I don’t check my email, log on to Instagram, or scroll through the headlines on the BBC. I don’t have Facebook or Twitter, but if I did, the same would hold true: I wouldn’t be messing about on those; I would be writing.

One curiosity about my writing process is that I need to compose by hand. On the weekends, either Saturday morning first thing or sometimes, if I’m tired or have other things to do, as late as Sunday afternoon, I type up whatever I’ve written by hand that week. I revise while I’m typing; it’s a good chance to see dialogue, description, pacing and characterization with fresh eyes, and the typing itself can become generative for me. Nothing is more likely to block me as a writer than the blank page. Once I have some words down, even if the words aren’t perfect, the writing comes much, much easier. Sometimes, I do get possessed of a desire to keep on writing, so once I finish transcribing my handwritten chapters into Microsoft Word, I will hunker down in my apartment and write all weekend long. Those are good times, when the creative juices are flowing and even if everything I’m writing isn’t masterful, I am really enjoying the process. I’m having fun with my creation.

That’s where Dillard and I differ so sharply in our view of “the writing life.” Our time on the planet is short, and as she says, “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Why spend life miserably laboring at a task you find loathsome or energy-killing, especially if that task is writing, which only in very rare circumstances is going to make you enough of a living or win you enough accolades to be, materially speaking, worth it? Why avoid having a life because you’re writing? I am a hardcore bookworm, such that I don’t even own a television and every single time you offer me the choice, I will read the book rather than watch the movie, but as much as I love books and believe the world needs as many of them as it can get, I don’t believe a book is more important than a life. I would save you from a burning building before I would save your manuscript. I write because I take joy in it – not pleasure, exactly, because pleasure implies something easy, and writing, to quote Dillard again, is not easy:

Putting a book together is interesting and exhilarating. It is sufficiently difficult and complex that it engages all your intelligence. It is life at its most free, if you are fortunate enough to be able to try it, because you select your materials, invent your task, and pace yourself.
That is how I feel about writing. And if you want to become a writer, I hope you do so because you feel like this, too. And I hope you won’t be dissuaded from writing by the notion that writers have to lead “colorless” lives locked away in “small rooms.” There may be times when, in the fever of creation, I resent having to put down my pen and paper to go to work, or fantasize about living on a deserted island where texts, emails, surprise visits, lunch dates, and noisy neighbors could never intrude on my “process.” But sooner or later, I find myself feeling lonely, or exhausted, or written-out. I crave human interaction, a long walk, a day of shopping, a good dinner out, a game of Scrabble at a coffeehouse. Eventually, inevitably, I crawl out of that writing cave, back into the light of living. Because that is what the writing life really is, after all: a life.
by Dr. Sunny Hawkins, UWC Director
http://snowandraven.net

Tutor Shaming: Remembering that We’re Only Human

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Imagine this scenario. Billy has an assignment for his English 1301 course. The paper is due tomorrow morning, but he doesn’t quite understand what the professor is asking for. You, the tutor, are in charge of ensuring Billy understands his assignment before he leaves the writing center. He’s heard many success stories- a few of his classmates have come to the writing center before, and they ALL GOT As! Billy expects the same kind of success.

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You discuss the prompt with him, and with the help of Billy’s notes, the assignment sheet, and a few of your fellow tutors, you have come up with a plan of attack for Billy’s paper. He states that he feels confident, and maybe you’re feeling it, too!

BUT two weeks later, Billy comes into the writing center, angry, because he has gotten a B. He thought you could help him. He needed to get an A! He came to YOU for help, so it MUST be YOUR FAULT. He argues that it’s your job to go tell his professor that he came to the writing center, it’s your fault the paper wasn’t good enough, and that he should get an A.
Eesh. Billy doesn’t seem like he’s a very pleasant person.

You resolve the issue, but it bugs you for the rest of the day. You go home, tail tucked between your legs, and wonder all night long: what if it was your fault?

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​When we’re set up on a pedestal for the amazing work we do here at the UWC, sometimes clients, professors, and even us tutors forget that we aren’t always perfect! This is why, for my first blog post EVER (Yes, yes, thank you. Please, hold your applause until the end.), I wanted to remind everyone that we are all only human.

​“We occasionally we feel like we can or should do more, but sometimes we can’t,” one of our tutors, Isabella, says despondently. “It’s upsetting sometimes, especially when it comes down to the wire, that we can’t do much. I want to help, but sometimes, I just can’t.”

Tutors are just like other students. We stress out, have homework, need to sleep, eat, and binge watch House, M.D. on Netflix. Even right now, as I’m typing this, I’m stress-eating cheesy bread procured during the lunch rush at the Student Union Building.

And just like other college students, sometimes tutors make mistakes.

“Students need to take our advice to a certain degree,” states Julio, a graduate student and tutor here at the University Writing Center. “They know their professor better than we do. If we give them advice that counters what their professor said, they need to say so.”


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Bekah, an undergrad tutor that has been working at the UWC since February of last year, agrees. “It’s fairly common that we see a professor who likes things slightly different than the traditional way of doing it. Their idea of APA format may be a little different than regulation. Maybe it’s a different font size they’re looking for. Maybe they want Calibri instead of Times New Roman.”

But any tutor will agree that they do their best to get their clients the grades that their hard work deserves.

“The struggle is always worth it when your clients come in, proud of the grade they received,” says Julio. “And they come back, and they ask for you, because they know, more often than not, coming in for help really works.”

All we can really hope for, as tutors, is that we grow and learn as students and people alongside our clients. Not only do we help them, but they really help us, too!


by: Beth Marie Cantu
Thanks to our tutors for reminding us they aren’t perfect! Mark (Above), Bekah (Middle Right), and Julio (Bottom Left).

A brief intro to introduction paragraphs

Writing it Out

Let's introduce ourselves to strong introductory paragraphs. Image courtesy of quickanddirtytips.com Let’s introduce ourselves to strong introductory paragraphs. Image courtesy of quickanddirtytips.com

By Grace Bonde, Sophomore Writing Coach

The school year is almost winding down to a close, and right now most students are focused on struggling through the upcoming weeks of testing, doing homework when it’s finally nice outside, and the end of the year finals. Even though many of us are thinking about wrapping things up, I would like to go back to the beginning…of our papers! More specifically, the opening sentence, or lead, that introduces your audience to the rest of the paper.

Introduction paragraphs are hard to write. I believe we can all agree on that. They take a lot of creativity and have to be created anew for every written assignment. There is no easy formula for writing an interesting lead that sets the tone for the rest of the work. Leads, unlike the structure of…

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When and How Should Your Students Use the Writing Center?

The Writing Campus

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Alisa Russell is a Master’s student in the Teaching Writing and Literature program at George Mason University.  She works as an administrator in the Writing Center, a research assistant for Writing Across the Curriculum, and a teaching assistant for First Year Composition. Her current research interests include the Writing About Writing movement in composition theory/pedagogy and Writing Center training and strategies for working with multilingual writers. You can reach her at wac@gmu.edu.

Whenever we assign writing assignments in our classrooms, we often peripherally acknowledge that the Writing Center is a viable option for our students to work with a tutor toward improvement. However, students may not fully understand the extensive options that the Writing Center provides for them. After scrambling for an appointment or not making one at all, the student may bring in a near-final draft for a quick check mere hours before the due date…

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CFP: Submissions to Proposed Edited Collection of RAD Writing Center Research

Please repost and distribute the following to all interested parties, especially graduate students:

In their 2012 volume Researching the Writing Center: Towards an Evidence-Based Practice, Rebecca Day Babcock and Terese Thonus remind us that “writing center scholarship is a young field, and the direction(s) in which we will grow depend upon the decisions we make today about the definitions of and the connections among theory, inquiry, and practice…[W]e propose that recommendations for practice be based on evidence in the form of observations, recordings, microanalyses of actual tutoring sessions; analyses of session feedback forms and textual revisions; and interviews with participants when feasible” (3). In other words, Babcock and Thonus sound a call heard with increasing frequency in writing center scholarship: a call for RAD scholarship, research – whether quantitative or qualitative – that is “replicable, aggregable, and data-supported” (2).

This proposed volume echoes that call. Its intention is to present current RAD research into writing center practice, including that being undertaken by graduate students, undergraduate tutors, and writing center directors, as well as other writing center stakeholders. Areas of interest might include:
· tutor training methods

· writing center spaces

· student/writer populations (those writing centers serve)

· peer tutor/consultant populations (those who staff writing centers)

· tutorial conference outcomes

· categories of/approaches to collaboration

· identity politics

· peer tutor outcomes

· students/writers and/or tutors/consultants with disabilities

· L2 students/writers and/or L2 tutors/consultants

· graduate writers

· patterns of tutorial conference discourse

· affect in the tutorial conference

· writing center administration

· online tutorial conferences

· writing centers and retention

· high school writing centers

· tutor-embedded courses

· student writing groups

· faculty writing groups
This list is not meant to be exhaustive; contributions in other areas of writing center practice will be considered. Proposals for works-in-progress (including pilot studies) are also welcome. However, at least the initial stage of data collection and analysis must be completed in advance of the final submission deadline.

Please do not propose submissions based solely on assessment measures. While writing center assessment is necessary for evaluating and revising local programs, the purpose of RAD scholarship is to create, extend, and/or revise theory or practice, not necessarily to assess the efficacy of individual programs. In other words, RAD scholarship seeks to make a contribution to the field at large via systematic, pre-planned inquiries involving data collection and analysis. Again, quantitative and qualitative methodologies are welcome.

Proposals of 750-1500 words are invited by July 1, 2015. All proposals should include:
1) Statement of purpose for the proposed and/or completed research

2) Names and roles of the researcher or researchers (i.e., writing center director; graduate student; undergraduate tutor)

3) Description of the population to be researched (students/writers; tutors/consultants; writing center administrators; etc.), if appropriate, and the setting of the research (two-year or four-year university; high school; etc.)

4) List of research questions

5) Description of research methods (interviews; observations; statistical comparisons; etc.) and plans for data collection and analysis

6) Timeline of research project (date data collection will begin and end; date data analysis will begin and end)

7) Evidence of or plans for securing IRB approval to conduct research
Send proposals via email to: Dr. Sunny Hawkins, Associate Professor of English, Texas A&M University-Kingsville (sunny.hawkins@tamuk.edu). Electronic submissions only, please. Proposal review will take place between July 1 and August 1, 2015; notification of submission acceptance will be sent via email by August 2, 2015. If accepted, final submissions will be due no later than February 1, 2016. Proposal for the edited collection is in progress and will be submitted after proposal submissions are selected.

Questions? Contact Dr. Sunny Hawkins at sunny.hawkins@tamuk.edu.

Dr. Sunny Hawkins
Associate Professor of English
Undergraduate Writing Center Director
Texas A&M University-Kingsville
sunny.hawkins@tamuk.edu
http://www.tamuk.edu/writingcenter

Brainstorming: How to Avoid “Snowball” Writing

UofL Writing Center

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Kristin Hatten, Consultant

Learning to brainstorm is—in my humble opinion—one of the most important aspects of learning to write. This may seem obvious, but I think the further we progress into our writing careers, the more we tend to skip a good, solid brainstorming session. I, for one, am extremely guilty of this—especially since I started graduate school; I get overwhelmed with the project at hand, and, instead of proceeding calmly and strategically, I barrel forward into my paper, despite the fact that I know better. So, here, I want to outline some steps that I plan to walk myself through in order to avoid this “snowball-style” writing style, in hopes that they will be helpful to you as well!

First, freewrite! Freewriting is a great way to start a brainstorming session because you can do it however you want! Freewriting may consist of a rough outline, a chart, boxes…

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Professor Expectations of Writing Assignments: A Student Perspective

The Writing Campus

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By Mikal Cardine

Mikal is a senior studying English at George Mason. She previously worked with WAC to create disciplinary writing guides for student use. To reach her, please contact wac@gmu.edu.

In the subjective world of writing, there doesn’t seem to be any rules – just lots of different guidelines as we students move from class to class. However, effective communication is what writing is all about, and professors can best teach their students this skill by practicing it themselves, especially regarding their expectations of writing assignments. Before assuming that we know what is expected of us, professors need to consider our circumstances and differences: Some of us have not been in a focused writing class in years. Some of us have not taken 302 before taking the WI course. Some of us placed out of first year writing, or have transferred to Mason and are still adjusting to new…

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