We wear a lot of hats here at the Writing Center. There’s my trucker hat with my pin collection, that baseball cap Michelle’s been rocking lately, that cool plaid newsboy hat on that one client…
Okay, facetious exploitation of English idioms ends here.
Want to know what the first work I did at the Writing Center was (work=thing that someone told me to do while I was on the clock)? It wasn’t teaching an English 1310 student how to structure an argumentative essay. It wasn’t proofreading a 200-page doctoral dissertation. It wasn’t politely explaining to someone taking their first writing-intensive class just how exactly to use a comma.
It was taking a Sharpie and crossing out “Flowers Hall G09” and replacing it with “ASBN 100.” On about three hundred fridge magnets. Remember those chunky pencil-looking fridge magnets we used to have at the front desk? That was me.
I figured it was just busy work, like being told to sit in the back of the room with the glitter and the safety scissors, and that I’d soon be a proper tutor, earning my bread teaching students the beauty of the English language rather than having to do this demeaning manual labor. But it didn’t stop there. Because at the Writing Center, we tutors don’t have the luxury of shunting off less glamorous tasks to underpaid workers. We buckle down and we get stuff done.
Last month, we spent a lot of time on-and-off using paint scrapers to clean the outside windows of all the inspiring quotes we’d written up there for Women’s History Month. The orange and pink were the easiest to scrape off, but the purple was really stubborn. “So, what did you do at the Writing Center today?” “Well, I helped a student with an admissions essay, brainstormed with one of the 1320 kids, and spent like thirty minutes scraping marker off the windows.” We only put one quote up for Autism Awareness Month–I can’t imagine why.
But that’s just how it is at the Writing Center. One moment you’re discussing the finer points of preposition usage with an international student; the next, you’re sanding paint off the door in the back while paint dust blows into your face from above, where another tutor who shall remain nameless is likewise sanding away.
This fluidity carries over into our personal interactions as well. The reception desk at the writing center is a very interesting place. Each of us is scheduled to work there for an hour at a time (two hours for me, occasionally–still not sure how that happened), but because reception work is typically slow apart from the rush on the half-hour marks when clients come in, off-duty tutors typically take it upon themselves to relieve the poor soul at the desk by loitering around and just…talking. But! But!! We do talk about work-related things. We commiserate about appointments gone sour. We discuss better ways to explain things. We also talk about inherent sexism in the Spanish language, whether Pocahontas’s marriage to John Smith was the first interracial marriage, and the difference between flesh-eating zombies and brain-eating zombies. No, I did not make any of those up.
The Writing Center is the only place I’ve ever worked. It is also, by far, the greatest place I’ve ever worked in my entire life. I get to help students become better writers, hang out with a bunch of great people, and do so many other different things that I know I’ll never be bored.
We wear a lot of hats around here. Also, we have cookies. Sometimes.