Becoming a Writing Center Tutor

        Do you like to write for the pleasure of it?  Have you even enjoyed writing scholarly research papers?  Have you always been curious about how writers make decisions, improve their skills, measure their progress, understand what they're doing as they write?  Do you find yourself speculating about how professional writers, great poets, and novelists work, trying to guess how they put their best pieces together?  Do you wonder what language is and how human beings grow up in language-defined cultures?  Do you want to meet and work with other students who are similarly driven to explore written language and its role in the lives of the people who use it?

        Successful Writing Center tutors typically would answer yes to two or more of those questions.  However, a wide range of people successfully pass the rigorous training to become tutors, and their experiences illustrate the vexing and exciting way writing affects our development as college-trained thinkers.   Many tutors in training report feeling, at first, that they don't write well enough, even though they tend to get high grades for their papers at Goucher.   Others tell us writing caused them awful suffering until some breakthrough experience changed their composing process, or their way of understanding it.  Most say the experience of writing has changed their lives in an essential way, defining who they are to friends and strangers as "the one who writes,"  the one other people come to when they need help getting their ideas on paper.

        Every spring, the Writing Program asks all Goucher faculty to nominate excellent Freshman, Sophomore, or Junior writers with good interpersonal skills to take English 221, the course required for all Writing Center tutors.  Students cannot "self-nominate," but they can ask instructors to consider nominating them.  It is important that students realize we are asking faculty members to send us only their very best writers, and that we ask them to consider the way those writers have interacted with other students.  Both sets of skills are required of good tutors, because writing and tutoring are social, not solitary acts.   If you are nominated, you will receive a letter from the Writing Program Director requesting you to set up an interview to discuss your interest in taking English 221.   Nominated students also will be asked for a writing sample created for one of their courses at Goucher--any short non-fiction prose paper will do.

        Students who take English 221 are asked to do some "laboratory" tutoring during the semester to test the concepts and theories they are studying, but after the course is over they are not required to tutor.  Some students take English 221 primarily because they are heading for a career in Education or Composition Studies.  Accommodations also are routinely made for tutors who need to take a semester or a year off because of study abroad, internships, or heavy course loads.  Ideally, about two thirds of each year's English 221 graduates will be working in the Center.  Writing Center schedules are set up voluntarily, and the Center is student-run under the care of two student managers.   Tutors are requested to give the Center at least three hours a week of in-Center tutoring time, in order to keep the Center open a reasonable number of hours.  They also can tutor out-of-Center at times and places convenient to them and to the writers they are assisting.  All hours spent in the Center and tutoring outside the center are paid employment at the highest student rate we can negotiate.

        To visit the English 221 web site where you can see a sample syllabus, click here.