What our Cal U Writing Center does best is the concept that I struggled with the most when I began working here—teaching. As an English major, I plan to work as an editor. As a Writing Center consultant, I am trained to look at your paper through the eyes of a teacher. This is important for one very major reason: longevity. When you hand a paper to someone and ask them to edit, you receive a marked-up paper that you fix, turn in, and forget. You might learn a little on the way, but you are not personally working with the mistakes you have made, learning why they were wrong, and remedying them. Because you weren’t fully engaged in the process of learning, those mistakes will be repeated in future writing assignments. However, sitting down with someone and working through your paper presents a much greater learning opportunity. When the pencil is in your own hand you are more involved with your writing. This makes it more likely that you will learn and improve not just on your current assignment, but on future assignments as well.
The writing consultants at the Cal U Writing Center are constantly being presented with opportunities to improve as “teachers” and avoid simply becoming editors. Consultants are asked to read scholarly articles about teaching techniques and creating a successful Writing Center experience for a client. They create informational packets about topics ranging from APA and MLA citations to reviewing your own paper. The best opportunities, however, are in-person appointments with clients. Consultants can only learn how to be effective teachers by practicing their teaching.
I began working at the Cal U Writing Center a year ago, the fall semester of my sophomore year, and I entered my job with an editor’s mentality. However, my first appointment was with an English as a Second Language (ESL) student. Looking back, I think that this was the best thing that could have happened to me because in that situation it was impossible for me to simply edit; the student I was working with wanted to understand what they were doing wrong and discuss possible improvements with me. It was not an option for me to read through the paper by myself and mark mistakes, we had to discuss the paper thoroughly.
I still have to actively make sure that I am teaching and not editing, but now that I have seen the benefits, I want to teach. We learn by correcting our own mistakes because fixing them firsthand is the only way that we truly understand why they need to be fixed in the first place. By researching ways to improve their teaching, the Cal U writing consultants are learning how best to help Cal U’s students. By teaching instead of editing, the Writing Center is offering students long-term solutions for their writing dilemmas.