Writing Center Observation #2

Note: Names have been changed out of respect to everyone involved.

I went into the University Writing Center once again for a half-hour tutoring session between John and me.

I decided to focus on a Narrative Inquiry assignment I’ve been working on for the last three weeks. This assignment is for my Academic Narratives class. Once you meet the deadlines, my professor allows you to make edits and turn in multiple drafts. I received an 89% on the assignment. My professor told me: “One more draft would make the difference between a B+ and an A.” I was having trouble interpreting her comments this time around, so I thought having a dialogue about the comments would help me get through this round of editing.

The Narrative Inquiry itself is long and overwhelming. Adding to that, my professors comments are long, hand-written and in an untidy and confusing script. I am incredibly annoyed and over the assignment, but I am pushing myself to finish this last round of edits—not for the grade, but because I care strongly about the subject matter.

I tried to explain the assignment to John. He got a bit overwhelmed. I then explained the nature of my professor’s comments, since I already read all of them. They were quite diverse, as is characteristic of my professor. John jumped on a few that related to “relying on broad abstractions to justify behavior.” I alluded to a universal belief in justice throughout my paper. My professor wants me to specifically focus on how justice relates to my subject matter—and define justice through this avenue—rather than focus on justice as an “abstract” and universal entity. Because, apparently, not everyone believes in justice.

I told John I was having trouble dealing with that because I was writing to an American audience, and I was trying to base my definition of justice on our country’s foundational documents. John took that as I didn’t understand what my professor was saying, and since he couldn’t help me with anything else she asked me to improve, he jumped on this. John then proceeded to explain “abstractions” as “meta-physical.” He then went on a rant about what meta-physical meant and why this was not an effective way to argue. The conversation went to physics, inertia, car-crashes, clouds, the sky, and then eventually, my paper.

I tried to stop him several times, until I realized that this tutoring session was nearly finished, and we weren’t going to get anywhere anyways. I let him continue his rant so he could feel knowledgeable and important—it seemed like he needed that. I left the tutoring session without having made any progress on my paper. But, I think I made a new friend?

I decided that when I came back to the writing center for my next appointment with John, I would solely focus on the pre-writing process. I would brainstorm with him rather than ask him to edit or interpret comments with me. We’ll see how that goes…



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