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.

tumblr_inline_nnw84blovt1ttg027_500

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

Advertisements

Tutor Shaming: Remembering that We’re Only Human

check out our main blog here

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.

Picture

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?

Picture

​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.”


Picture

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).