Tutor’s experience: A session reflection on identity occlusion in virtual and in-person spaces

Vol. 3, No. 4 (Summer 2022)
By Mohsen Hosseinpour Moghaddam,
Graduate Writing Facilitator, Simon Fraser University

Mohsen is a PhD student in Education at Simon Fraser University. He moved to Canada from Iran in 2012. He started learning English at the age of twenty. Before that, he only knew a few words and grammar rules. He is currently working as an Graduate Writing Facilitator on the undergraduate team at the Student Learning Commons (SLC) and WriteAway. At SLC, in addition to offering individual writing consultations, he delivers general and course-integrated writing workshops across disciplines on topics ranging from argumentation to ethical use of research material in writing assignments.

“Body is never simply matter, for it is never divorced from perception and interpretation…and it is subject to examination and speculation” – Carla Peterson (2001, as cited in James Alexander, 2001, p. 108)

Mohsen Hosseinpour Moghaddam

Scene 1 (teaching in-person)
I started working as an undergraduate writing advisor at the Student Learning Commons (SLC) in the middle of the third year of my PhD program. I have been teaching workshops and having one-on-one consultations with students since then. Coming to Canada as an international student from the Middle East (Iran)[1] and being a non-native speaker/writer (NNS/W) of English made the challenges of being a writing advisor more intense. A question that has always lingered on my mind is if I am a legitimate writing advisor. I am not saying that others directly question my legitimacy and credibility as a writing advisor; this is just a feeling that I have always had with me as a NNS/W of English teaching at a Canadian university. Continue reading “Tutor’s experience: A session reflection on identity occlusion in virtual and in-person spaces”

Colonial outposts in the 36th chamber: Hip hop pedagogies and writing centres

Vol. 3, No. 2 (Spring 2022)
Brian Hotson,
Editor, CWCR/RCCR

I recently interviewed with Casey Wong who is the keynote speaker for the 2022 CWCA/ACCR conference. Wong (he/him) is currently an Assistant Professor of Social Foundations of Education in the Department of Educational Policy Studies at Georgia State University. He is co-editing a forthcoming book, Freedom Moves: Hip Hop Knowledges, Pedagogies, and Futures?, with H. Samy Alim and Jeff Chang.


Thank you for taking the time for to speak with me. 

Wong: Thank you! I’m excited about entering into community with you and the CWCA/ACCR attendees.

First off, I’m interested in how you got to where you are now. What was your path to your PhD and UCLA? 

Casey Wong
Case Wong

Wong: I love this question, and I imagine I could begin academically, but I might start with my upbringing. When I’m thinking about the power of language and rhetorics, I think about all I witnessed growing up in communities in Southern California that were some of the poorest by size in the country. I saw a variety of literacies spraypainted across train cars that actively passed through one of my central places of upbringing, Colton, California. I consider how I grew up among interconnected and overlapping peoples from the African/Black, Latinx, Asian, and Pacific Islander diasporas. I consider how local Native peoples were actively involved in my elementary school in San Bernardino, California. I think about how White supremacy often found its way into the voices and lives of my poor and working-class White peers, but how often there were deep co-conspiracies and solidarities that went unnoticed. With so many peoples, from so many places, it made having access to multiple varieties of language a deep advantage, and their value, and beauty–even as Dominant American English was widely seen as the ideological norm in very oppressive ways. I saw this personally as my Cantonese father secretly refused to let us know he spoke Cantonese, nor let us learn–something myself, my brother and sister would not find out until he passed away while we were in high school. Continue reading “Colonial outposts in the 36th chamber: Hip hop pedagogies and writing centres”

Two years on: COVID Snapshot of writing centres in Canada – Emily Carr University of Art + Design Writing Centre

Vol 3, No 3 (Spring 2022)

This is the third of three posts from our CWCR/RCCR’s 2022 COVID snapshot of writing centres in Canada. Here are links to the first and second posts.

Here are the snapshots from 2020 and 2021.


Emily Carr University of Art + Design Writing Centre
Jacqueline Turner, Writing Specialist
Sara Osenton, Learning Specialist
Emily Carr University of Art + Design
Vancouver, BC

The deep fatigue of the pandemic has definitely set in, but this year we’ve focused on our tutors and building their capacity to thrive in changing conditions. We started the year with tutor-led meetings, providing a structure and then letting them learn and practice how to lead. To kick off 2022, we started meetings with a variety of activities such as Jamboard drawing on virtual money envelopes for lunar new year, or sharing our own creative practices from painting, book making, design, and graphic novel creation to sewing and knitting. We talked about how all these practices made us think differently about the moment of writing and how empathy and enthusiasm were key traits for tutor success. This week, we’ll start off our meeting figuring out how our collective skills might help us survive a zombie apocalypse. Too real~

 

 

While the ongoing limitations brought on by COVID restrictions meant the cancellation of our yearly, open-house Valentine’s event for the second time now, we found ways to connect with students by pivoting “Love, the Writing Centre” to a Valentine’s swag-bag giveaway. A hundred students signed in to WCOnline to reserve their kit and pick up time. The kits included writing-themed items designed by our tutors, who took these ideas from conception through the design process: notepads of Venn diagrams and writing checklists designed by one of our talented (and Instagram famous) tutors; a real postage stamp designed by tutors in the Letter Writing Collective, tucked into a tiny envelope; Writing Centre pencils and bookmarks; and, of course, candy. A few select kits even included a “golden ticket” redeemable for additional prizes to amp up the excitement.

We’ve also had tutors lead out and collaborate on workshops in proposal writing featuring “obnoxious unicorns” (who ask “Why?” and “How?” many times); to moving beyond cliché in artist statement workshops; to MLA sessions; and thesis queries. We’ve had tutors visiting virtual classes and sharing their enthusiasm for writing in Zoom rooms across the curriculum. Tutors have hosted online Study Hall Sessions for students to hang out and work on assignments and hosted a letter-writing collective where they set up a pen-pal system and wrote letters to trees in Australia. Wordsmiths, our long running tutor-led creative writing club, continues to have strong uptake. In this sense, the culture of writing is still strong in our university community.

 

In essence, we’ve begun to see that the work tutors do beyond one-on-one appointments to build community and a love of writing is even more important in COVID times. Seeking and maintaining connections in the shifting landscape of Writing Centre practice seems like the most significant thing we can do these days. We’re lucky to have such a dynamic and thoughtful group of tutors to carry it all out.

Two years on: COVID Snapshot of writing centres in Canada – University of Alberta’s Centre for Writers

Vol 3, No 2 (Spring 2022)

This is the second of three posts from our CWCR/RCCR’s 2022 COVID snapshot of writing centres in Canada. The first post was a snapshot from Hailie Tattrie from the writing centre at MSVU in Halifax. This snapshot come further west–Centre for Writers at the University of Alberta.

Here are the snapshots from 2020 and 2021.


Centre for Writers
Yan (Belinda) Wang, Acting Director
University of Alberta
Edmonton, AB

This coming March will mark the two-year transition into remote services since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The past year saw the Centre for Writers (C4W) thrive in some areas but also experience unprecedented difficulties and challenges.

What Went Well and Relatively Well
Our clients are happy with online tutoring and other services we provide. We echo some other writing centres’ pleasant surprise in students’ willingness and appreciation for us adopting remote services. In the past academic year, when clients were asked if they were happy with the new online tutoring service, 99% of them said they were very happy or somewhat happy. For the first time ever, C4W services were offered later in the day (sometimes up to 10:00 pm) to accommodate clients in different time zones. The WCOnline scheduling system, especially its online consultation feature, continued to function effectively most of the time. Zoom was also used as an alternative when WCOnline malfunctioned.

Prior to the pandemic, asynchronous tutoring (i.e., emailed written feedback) was only offered to Faculty of Extension, U of A’s  school of distance learning, students. When it became clear that extending the service in a pandemic setting would be beneficial, we started to offer the service to students of all faculties. Soon after the change was implemented, we experienced a surge in asynchronous tutoring requests. Even though we had three dedicated asynchronous tutors providing written feedback, many synchronous tutors had to assist with asynchronous requests when the number of submissions became overwhelming.

Our guided writing groups (for international graduate students) and group writing support (for writing-intensive undergraduate courses) thrived in the first half of 2021. We offered eight writing groups between January and April 2021, a new record for the C4W. We also supported five writing-intensive undergraduate courses in the same period, another very successful record.

The pandemic also impacted the delivery of our tutor training course, Writing Studies 301/603. Dr. Lucie Moussu, the former Director of the C4W, successfully taught the course online for the first time in Fall 2020. A new approach was developed to facilitate the online practicum portion of the course: student-tutors were given the opportunity to develop their tutoring skills and reflect upon their tutoring practice through online observations, online co-tutoring, online supervised tutoring, and solo tutoring at their own pace throughout the term. However, student-tutors’ individual challenges and efforts necessitated adjustments to this plan, with some never reaching the third or fourth stage of tutoring. A detailed spreadsheet was used to track student-tutors’ hours at each stage, as well as their progress. Justin, our Program Coordinator, did an amazing job scheduling and keeping track of everything and everyone amidst the scheduling madness. In the end, out of 18 students, six undergraduate students and eight graduate students from the course were hired in 2021 to fuel our tutor team.

Difficulties and Challenges
The continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic brought to light a few ongoing challenges, especially feelings of isolation and mental health concerns. Additional instabilities emerged in the latter half of 2021, bringing with them significant challenges: our previous director left, and we struggled a little in the aftermath of her departure.

Issues with technology
Issues with technology arose for both tutors and clients. Some of these issues included microphone and camera troubles, clients not showing up to online appointments, Internet instability, and a recurring problem with WCOnline malfunctioning and terminating online consultations prematurely. Some of these problems were resolved quickly; for example, we used Zoom to connect tutors with clients during a WCOnline outage. Each tutor was given a private Zoom link (through the U of A) that they shared with clients at the start of each appointment in case issues arose with WCOnline. Some clients preferred Zoom and asked tutors to switch to Zoom at the beginning of their appointments.

Feelings of isolation and mental health concerns
The online environment left many feeling isolated, so it was important for tutors to keep in touch with one another. Justin set up a daily check-in window on WCOnline, where the tutors could connect and socialize. We also gave the tutors our personal cell phone numbers so that they could contact us when needed. Tutors needed to be reachable at all times during their shifts in case clients needed a drop-in session or we had other writing-centre related duties for them. Also, tutors checked in with Justin at the start of each shift between 10 am and 4:30 pm in the WCOnline check-in window, and with the director, by text, from 4:30 pm until 10 pm. More frequent staff meetings were also scheduled so that we could connect with the tutors on a weekly basis.

Isolation due to the pandemic also caused some mental health concerns. While C4W staff had the methods of coping mentioned above, many clients felt very isolated. Tutors often found themselves listening to problems and concerns that their clients needed to talk about. While tutors are not expected or encouraged to act as therapists, they graciously listened to clients when they needed a place to vent their frustrations. Tutors themselves were in turn encouraged to reach out to us with any problems they needed to talk about.

The aftermath of Dr. Lucie Moussu leaving the C4W
Dr. Lucie Moussu leaving the C4W in June 2021 was a huge loss. Her departure and the Dean of Students’ inaction in finding a permanent replacement threw the rest of us into a panic, and we struggled to cope in her absence. The C4W was without a director for two months, after which I asked the Dean of Students to hire me as Acting Director. (I had already been Acting Director during Dr. Moussu’s last sabbatical leave.)

Dr. Moussu’s departure meant that she could no longer teach the tutor training course, which had been essential in preparing well-trained tutors. For the first time in the C4W history, this course was taught by someone other than the C4W director in Fall 2021; it was instead taught by a full lecturer in the Department of English and Film Studies (EFS). The problem with this arrangement was that the lecturer did not train students specifically for the C4W  but rather for other writing tutor positions in EFS. In the end, only two undergraduate students from this class applied for a C4W tutor position. It was very disappointing, as it did not give the C4W any room to select the tutors with the most potential. Also, it defeated the purpose of the tutor training course, which was initially specifically designed to fit the C4W’s purposes.

My limited experience with writing centre work, and even more limited energy as I am trying to complete my own PhD dissertation, means that a number of goals set for the 2021-2022 academic year cannot be achieved. Vigorous promotion of our services, community building, collaboration with various faculties, research-related activities, and professional development opportunities for tutors were greatly reduced, as a result.

Looking Forward
The future of the C4W remains uncertain, but we are hopeful that peer writing support will continue to thrive, at least in some areas. Changes are underway and conversations about the future of our tutoring services are ongoing.

Streamlining services and reinventing workshops
In an effort to streamline our services, limit the unmanageable number of email exchanges, and encourage clients to book synchronous online tutoring appointments, we decided to retire the email system and implement the eTutoring function already available on WCOnline. Our Quick Guide for Online Tutoring was updated to reflect this new change. Justin created a separate eTutoring schedule for Winter 2022 on WCOnline, opening a few eTutoring appointments each day. Three dedicated eTutors are responsible for checking their appointment windows and attaching written feedback to the appointments within three business days.

As our clients and tutors have grown accustomed to the new norm of online learning, interest in and demand for workshops kept growing. As a result, we decided to bring back the writing workshops, which were cancelled at the beginning of the pandemic. Our graduate tutors responded positively to the idea of resuming the workshops in an online setting, and many created new workshop topics and materials relevant to clients’ current concerns. Most of the workshops have been well-attended and all of them well-received.

Resuming in-person services and the future of the tutor training course
We have been having ongoing conversations with the Dean of Students about resuming in-person services once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. We might return to campus in the coming Fall 2022 semester, and we would like to explore a hybrid model to accommodate clients’ different needs. Discussions about alternative formats of the tutor training course are also underway, as entrusting the Department of EFS to teach the course proved to be less than ideal.

Two years on: COVID Snapshot of writing centres in Canada – Mount Saint Vincent University Writing Centre

Vol 3, No 1 (Spring 2022)

In both March 2020 and 2021, CWCR/RCCR published snapshots of writing centres in Canada and their responses to the disruption of COVID 19. Now, two years on, while the thesaurus is busy writing new adjectives to describe our new realities, CWCR/RCCR is providing a snapshot from centres around Canada for 2022. We will post three snapshots—here is the first from MSVU in Halifax.


Mount Saint Vincent University Writing Centre
Hailie Tattrie, PhD Student
Mount Saint Vincent University
Halifax, NS

Making the best of COVID19: Learning together

“I really feel like this meeting has helped me!”, words from one of my regular students, Student M, who visits me at the Mount Saint Vincent University Writing Centre. Some days we edit her work together, other days we converse for the entire hour; sharing ideas, asking one another questions as we sip coffee at our desks, each of us in a different country. Despite the distance and the low hum of our laptops we make online tutoring work.

An image of Paulo Freire sitting in an office or library.
Paulo Freire

Revolutionary educator, Paulo Freire, is known for his work on critical pedagogy, as well as his exploration of the banking-model of education and the problem-posing model of education. The form of education that many in North America grew up with is known as the banking-model of education. This model is a subject-object relationship. As a tutor under the banking-model of education, I would simply sit at my desk and tell the student to remain silent as I edit their paper and make comments; there would be very little conversing. Under this model, the teacher is the subject, the bringer of knowledge, and the students are the object, empty and knowing nothing (Freire, 1970). Under the banking-model of education, students are seen as empty vessels, waiting to be filled with what is deemed the “correct” knowledge. In the banking-model, there’s no room for dialogue, critical thinking, or creativity. The banking model can be seen as Eurocentric in nature (Beattie, 2019; Kanu, 2006). However, Freire dreamed of more than the banking-model; he suggested an alternative, the problem-posing model of education. Continue reading “Two years on: COVID Snapshot of writing centres in Canada – Mount Saint Vincent University Writing Centre”

“I don’t know, let’s play”: Multimodal design support in the writing centre

the word "Play" in green against a brown backdrop

Vol. 3 No. 2 (Winter 2022)

Editor’s note: This is a Session Reflection. If you have a unique tutoring experience to share, submit your Session Reflection to Brian Hotson cwcr.rccr@gmail.com

Stevie Bell is an associate professor in the Writing Department at York University and CWCR/RCCR co-founder

A sticker with the word "essay" that looks like its meltingWriting centre tutors may be seeing an increase in multimodal writing projects (DWPs) now that students are primarily producing and submitting their work online―at least this is the case for me. Today’s students have the opportunity to use colour, sound, gifs, and video elements to enhance even traditional essays, and these elements are becoming not just common, but often expected. Students are also being assigned creative projects that require them to focus on becoming design-savvy producers of multimodal texts, using design elements and theory that isn’t always in their writing toolbox

Where on campus can students seek help with multimodal projects? In my opinion, writing centres are well positioned to extend the work they do supporting students as they use writing as a tool of thinking and communicating to include multimodal processes that do not prioritize alphabetic/linguistic modes. Writing centre tutors already know the structure of argumentation, the rhetoric of academic writing, and styles and formats required for writing at university or college levels. They also know how to think along with students, as well as to think in and through the tasks, challenges, and blocks that students come to the centre to work through.

Continue reading ““I don’t know, let’s play”: Multimodal design support in the writing centre”

Commitment to Antiracism: CWCA/ACCR Statement of Commitment to Antiracism

Background

The CWCA/ACCR Statement of Commitment to Antiracism is a living and active document. It will guide and inform the Board and its committees in all activities, such as strategic planning, conference organizing, resource creation, and membership recruitment. Following the statement’s publication on our website today in January 2022, the Board and the BIPOC Caucus will work together to implement an action plan and measures for tracking progress, for updating and revising the statement, and for supporting individual members and member schools in doing this critical work.

The Statement of Commitment to Antiracism is the result of significant cooperation and collaboration by various individuals and groups within CWCA/ACCR. The Statement was originally crafted out of a similar statement by the British Columbia Writing Centres Association (BCWCA). It was composed and revised over a period of approximately 12 months from January to December 2021, engaging Board members and general members of the organization.

Following the draft shared with members at the 2021 Annual General Meeting, racialized members of CWCA/ACCR formed the BIPOC Caucus and undertook the task of revising the Statement to make it more inclusive and to recognize the different roles that members have in doing this work. Their work has been instrumental, and CWCA/ACCR is indebted to these members for their commitment, vision, and labour. As a result of their work, the published Statement is more fully representative of our organization, and it details CWCA/ACCR’s commitments to and responsibilities for fostering and supporting antiracism in our organization and in member writing centres.

The CWCA/ACCR Statement of Commitment to Antiracism is the lens that will filter and focus all activities of our organization now and in the future. It reminds us that writing centre work is never neutral; that language is never standard; and that our practices of teaching, tutoring, and coaching must be equitable and informed by antiracism theories and practices to be effective. It impels us to examine our organizational culture, our membership, and our leadership, and to make intentional and sustaining changes to our systems and processes, and to our mentorship and leadership pathways.

I invite you to read the Statement of Commitment to Antiracism and consider how you can help move it from text to action:

  • What elements of this statement resonate with you?
  • As a current or future member of CWCA/ACCR, how can you participate in this work in your own writing centre/writing program? In your institution? In your teaching or research? In any of the initiatives or action items in the statement?
  • What support do you need from CWCA/ACCR to engage in antiracist research or practice?
  • What can you contribute to CWCA/ACCR’s efforts to transform this statement into action?

Please contact me if you wish to share your ideas, your interests, or your personal commitment. I look forward to joining with all our members in conversations about antiracism in CWCA/ACCR and in our member writing centres at the 2022 conference.

Clare Bermingham, PhD
President, CWCA/ACCR

Read the full CWCA/ACCR Statement of Commitment to Antiracism.

The anti-racist writing center: How Felicia Rose Chavez is changing the conventions of white-centric academic writing

Vol. 3 No. 1 (Winter 2022)

Kimberly Le, Writing Center Consultant, Seattle University
Finola Schmahl-Waggoner, Writing Center Consultant, Seattle University

We would like to begin by introducing ourselves and giving a little background on how we came to be writing center consultants and  how we came to join the first Canadian Writing Centres Association/association canadienne des centres de rédaction (CWCA/ACCR) Anti-racist Reading Circle.

Finola Schmahl-Waggoner

Finola Schmahl-Waggoner
My name is Fin, and I am a third-year undergraduate at Seattle University, majoring in cell and molecular biology with a minor in international studies. I visited the writing centerduring the fall quarter of my freshman year, 2019. My consultant had been so helpful and kind to me that I was inspired to join the center, and I applied a couple of months later for the position. I received and accepted an offer in spring of 2020 to work at the center, and I enrolled in ENGL 3090, our tutor writing course required for training. While we transitioned online, I learned a lot from our writing center director, Dr. Hidy Basta, about decolonizing the writing process and how to assist clients while also accepting and inviting in multiple ways of thinking, processing, and writing. I worked as a writing consultant online for the last academic year, 2020-2021 and applied to return in the summer of 2021. When Dr. Hidy Basta sent Kimberly and me the offer to join the CWCA/ACCR Reading Circle, we agreed excitedly and started reading Felicia Rose Chavez’s The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop: How To Decolonize the Creative Classroom (2021), which is how I ended up at the reading circle this past summer.

Kimberly Le

Kimberly Le
I am Kimberly, a fourth-year undergraduate at Seattle University, majoring in theatre with a double minor in ethics and psychology. I started out early in my freshman year helping my friends look over their papers and making comments, suggestions, edits, and most importantly, asking questions. Being that we were fresh into college with little in our pockets, most of my friends had joked that they wished they could pay me. And when my friends and I found out that the writing center was accepting applications, they urged me to throw my hat into the ring. Just like Fin, I was offered a position and enrolled in the required class. I can confidently say that what I thought it meant to be a writing tutor has completely changed for the better, thanks to the writing center. And it is because of this team that opportunities like joining a reading circle across the border became possible!

Fin and I were among a handful of CWCA/ACCR Reading Circle participants who were student writing consultants/tutors. The rest of the participants were writing center directors and staff. Getting to read The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop: How to Decolonize the Creative Classroom (2021) and sharing our thoughts and ideas with others was one of the best decisions we made during our time working at the writing center. Students in a predominately white institute (PWI) are racing to achieve a standard built upon inaccessibility for non-white students. This is why Chavez’s book is important. The work of affirming and recognizing students and professors of color is not only essential for white individuals to develop empathy and compassion and become advocates, but also because people of color endure adversity daily and deserve safe and supportive spaces. As radical as it may sound, if we could require all in academia to read this book, we would do so in a heartbeat. We cannot stress the impact and importance that this book has had on our confidence, challenging authority and believing in our  capability to make change.

The CWCA/ACCR Reading Circle
Writing centers are on a journey for change and growth, seeking an inclusive and actively anti-racist vision. Chavez’s book is both autobiography and manifesto, as Chavez navigates the classroom as a Latine woman, educator, wife, mother, and disrupter. Throughout the book, Chavez remains humble and hopeful for her audience and classrooms of future change-bringers and writers/artists. Perhaps the most refreshing aspect of Chavez’s book is her ability to converse with the reader through text and, more importantly, to provoke questions for readers to continue their own reflective journeys into being anti-racist. Chavez has contributed much to the conversation of anti-racism as it is realized in today’s society. Chavez’s work has permeated conversations in academic circles/spaces, prompting inspiration for collaborative book clubs and workshops that honor her brilliant, present-thinking philosophy for English-centered departments, including writing centers.

During the summer of 2021, member writing centers wanted to reflect on the implications for their services and practices with support from their professional organization, the Canadian Writing Centres Association/association canadienne des centres de rédaction. This form of reflection manifested into a reading circle. Despite the association’s location the invitation was extended beyond Canada, and the Seattle University Writing Center (where we are currently writing this from) was eager to participate. During these monthly meetings, members from across writing centers engaged in hour-long conversations regarding assigned chapters and the ideas that resulted from reading Chavez’s words. The meetings led up to a special Q&A session with Chavez herself, inviting members to further their understanding of decolonization in their classrooms, whether student or professor, camera on or off.

The text
The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop takes the reader on a step-by-step, chapter-by-chapter journey into Chavez’s process to create a curriculum to support antiracist writing workshops. Not only is every chapter supplemented with rich insight on what it means to respect your students as people and writers, Chavez’s writing is both anecdotal and inspiring. Every chapter includes questions and exercises that Chavez uses to compel the reader to consider their own practices―How might we ground ourselves? How can we work towards anti-oppression in our classrooms? And, for our purpose as writing centers, what are the writing center’s expectations versus the actual services provided to students? What do students want versus what  professors assume is necessary for students to learn? The power dynamics between students and professors is a major theme in Chavez’s story, and she invites the reader to walk in her shoes as she experiences both roles in the classroom. Throughout the book, Chavez is honest and real about owning her style of teaching and learning, even as it conflicts with the institution.

Anti-racist work in Seattle University’s writing center
As a writing center consultant at Seattle University, it was not until reading Chavez’s book that I (Kimberly) realized the importance of having conversations surrounding writing practice. Conversations about decolonizing the writing center are incredibly difficult and necessary both because the change is much-needed and because writing centers face challenges working [against universities’ misconceptions] universities. The writing center is often stereotyped by those outside of its staff and faculty as being a place to ‘fix’ writing, help with achieving an ‘acceptable’ grade, or even a place that can edit students’ work to make it sound more ‘academic’―code for sounding more in line with traditional, white-supremacist standards of academic writing, grammar, and structure. These are all difficult expectations to manage when we are trying to make change. We are here to engage students in enriching conversations about their writing and the writing process itself and to collectively heal from harmful patterns taught in academic classrooms with the ultimate goal of changing those patterns. In referencing Felicia Rose Chavez, taking up antiracist writing practices means incorporating flexibility, kindness, and recognizing multiple Englishes, and an approach that treats everyone as an individual with gifts to offer to and in writing. We suggest that by taking up these approaches that writing centers can become places that work to change existing white supremacist patterns in academia.

To assist in the process of change, we work by centering clients’ concerns and ideas, helping change the thought process of right and wrong, especially in reference to grammar. Instead of stating that a grammatical error or issue is incorrect, we say that it does not match the expected convention of the paper, and encourage the use of other Englishes, other languages and literacies of grammars, and playing with conventional narratives to create one’s own voice (confidence) in the paper. Personally, I (Fin) have found that many students are a bit confused when we use the word convention instead of rule in the writing centre, and I have had a handful of conversations explaining the reason the writing center uses convention. This involves explaining our work to deconstruct white, academic English by recognizing not only the multitude of forms English takes, but that there are multiple Englishes and thus multiple grammars. While a little confused at the beginning, students tend to appreciate the explanation and are even fired up by the discussion to change the way they approach writing in a way that suits their own style,  not the English pushed upon them. We also have posted links to anti-racist resources, academic resources, and services for mental health provided through other areas at Seattle University on our website alongside our tutoring and services for writing.

Finally, we provide a service for faculty to send in their assignment writing prompts. The consultants read over the prompts and give feedback on what they may find confusing or difficult and suggest how to improve the assignment. We are not perfect by any means, but we are making steps forward in dismantling harmful patterns and encouraging an atmosphere full of respect for different perspectives, room for everyone’s writing and voice, and removing the idea of good or bad writing that is dependent on the proximity to a Standardized English.

Moving forward as undergrads, working toward post-grad plans and aspirations, we take from The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop the impacts of radical change. Our work as writing center tutors extends to what it means to offer a service to our peers―to lend our hands in helping others grow. Not only can we uplift others in their work, but we can do so with a greater awareness of how history has molded us and decide to break free from traditional boundaries to create something entirely new and more applicable to us as a diverse group of people. From Chavez we take this lesson: we do not need to submit to how it has always been done; we can see what happens when we humanize ourselves and never settle for less. Whether we are scientists, artists, lawyers, writers, or reaching for any career ambition, the future of these paths lies within our choices and disrupts the systems of racism ingrained in us.

Kimberly
I (Kimberly) am an upcoming graduate of the class of 2022, seeking to enter the field of performance (whether acting or behind the scenes). I do this not only for the pure love of the theatre or to keep the arts alive, but to dismantle the unhealthy, capitalist, and racially charged practices that happen within theatre spaces, which are often ignored, hidden, or romanticized in the public eye. Chavez’s book has inspired me to challenge the tradition of professional and academic theatre wherein growth is not determined by the individual themselves. My work aims to achieve a more holistic space for future artists.

Fin
I (Fin) am predicted to graduate in 2023 and plan on pursuing a master’s degree in genomic medicine after graduation. After my master’s, I plan on diving into the personalized medicine field of biology, which means creating medicine targeted for one specific person or group of people based upon their DNA. I want to pursue this field, not only because I’m a nerd and enjoys genetics in general, but also because I want to intervene in the crooked imbalance of medicine prioritizing middle-aged, white, cis men (the traditional makeup of focus groups when testing new medicines) to create medicine more equitably and serve a wider range of people. Chavez’s book has inspired me to create an equitable space in biology and other neighboring STEM fields, to encourage a wider variety of students to bring their own perspectives and lives into the field to change it for the better.

Kimberly and Fin
his experience of the CWCA/ACCR Reading Circle has been so enlightening and joyous for us as student tutors, and being able to talk with others who care about the future for generations after us feels amazing. We would like to thank CWCA/ACCR for extending their invitation to the SU writing center to participate. Especially Julia Lane, our editor, who has invited us to write this blog post and has given us her utmost patience and support throughout this writing process. We would also like to thank Hidy Basta, Director of the SU Writing Center, mentor, and friend to all of her staff. Most of all, we’d like to thank Felicia Rose Chavez for taking the time to join the CWCA/ACCR Reading Circle for a Q&A―and especially for being vulnerable in sharing her story and what it takes to be a change-bringer.

– Kimberly Le and Fin Schmahl-Waggoner

 

via Photo by James Eades on Unsplash

Creating writing centres in neocolonialism

Vol. 3 No. 4 (Fall 2021)

Brian Hotson, Editor, CWCR/RCCR
Stevie Bell, Associate Professor, York University
Guest editor: Lauren Mackenzie

In 2008, the then CWCA/ACCR president participated in “setting up of the first writing centre” in India (Holock, 2009, p. 6) through the University of Ottawa. In a piece in the 2009 CWCA/ACCR Newsletter, Writing into India: Setting up the first Writing Centre in the country, Holock describes his experience at Parvatibai Chowgule College of Arts and Science in Gogol, Goa, India in a travel diary style recounting,

On Friday, June 27, 2008, we step off of our fifteen-hour flight in Mumbai, my boss and I, and immediately feel the weight of our endeavour. It is not only the heat and thickness of the air, but the realization that we have finally arrived to start work on Monday, in a country and an educational system that neither of us have ever been exposed to. (Holock, 2009, p. 6)

Continue reading “Creating writing centres in neocolonialism”

Regional Writing Centre Associations in Canada: Spotlight on the Alberta Writing Centres Association

An image of Alberta Wild Roses

Vol. 3, No. 3 (Fall 2021)

An interview with Sarah-Jean Watt, Athabasca University Write Site Coordinator, and AWCA contact

Liv Marken, Contributing Editor, CWCR/RCCR


Liv: Could you please explain for our readers what the Alberta Writing Centres Association is and what it does? How is it different from the Campus Alberta Writing Network (CAWS)?

Sarah-Jean: The AWCA began as an informal connection between institutions that participated in eTutor Alberta, an online tutoring service modelled on BC’s WriteAway. eTutor Alberta was formed in 2014 as a consortium of institutions, each of which lent a certain number of tutor hours per week to the service. Students from these institutions could submit written assignment drafts through an online system and receive feedback from a writing tutor. Helping us to build the system was the Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium, which shared its code. Continue reading “Regional Writing Centre Associations in Canada: Spotlight on the Alberta Writing Centres Association”