Monday, November 30, 2015

AR4: Meddling and Being Meddlesome


In this article, Pexton states: "We continue to try different formats, schedules, and days of the week to increase participation. Ultimately, we would like to expand beyond composition students; it is important to find ways to invite all first-years into the Writing Center, no matter what the writing project. If the invitation means some slight meddling, then Captain Kirk was right: it is simply what we have to do. In order to affect the best outcome, sometimes the best strategy is to interfere. " This article discusses the need to meddle at times, and the fact that it can (potentially)
improve our services and how we serve; Pexton discusses why meddling is important and what it means for the writing center and consultants. Reflect on your impressions of this article and what you can take away from it. Be detailed.

Remember to include the following in your COMPLETE PARAGRAPH response:

  • Your impressions of the article (likes/dislikes/agree/disagree)
  • How does it connect to writing centers at large?
  • How can it be applied to the MHS Writing Center?

16 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed this article! The author, Valerie Pexton, begins the piece with a clever and unique comparison. She relates the actions of the Enterprise in Star Trek to how she believes consultants in a writing center should interact with first-year students. One fact she includes surprised me: she said that visits to her center by first-years have decreased by more than 25% over the last two years that they took data. Valerie blames this on the fact that freshman struggle to adjust to the many changes that come with college. In our writing center, this is also the case because middle school students have to transition into high school. This transition is often rushed, and can be overwhelming. Students are intimidated by older students, and won't want to work with them willingly. This is also the case in many colleges, as freshman have to transition from high school to college. The author also explains that because her center is constantly busy, this means that they are successful, but it also means that there are a limited number of spots for appointments, so they can't serve everyone. As a result of this, they started a new program designed specifically for freshmen, targeting specific needs in classes instead of individual consultations. I thought this was a really good idea. We could use this idea in our own writing center by creating a class or lesson plan that could be given to the freshmen that cator to their needs. Overall, the article represented problems that both college writing centers and our own Mattawan Writing Center have, and gave solutions to these problems.

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  2. One of the main problems with writing centers everywhere is that there is never enough time to get done what is needed. A consultant can either give their client a rewarding one on one time or they can rush through each consultation just to be able to see everyone that is wanting help. Of course in situations like this, it is always better to receive a high quality consultation, or at least some ways to improve a client’s writing. In an effort to help writing centers, Valerie Pexton has written an article explaining what needs to happen to help the most people possible, while still giving them well thought out feedback. In the beginning of the article, Pexton goes over the fact that most of the students who need help but aren’t able to find open time slots are first years, or in our case, Freshmen. She explains that, “The reasons first-year students, especially those coming right out of high school, don't come to our writing center for help are fairly well-known: they struggle to adjust to the pace of college coursework and often wait too long to get help; they think of extra help as something akin to special ed; they aren’t used to finding resources of their own and don't always follow up on the information they do get; they don't manage their time well and are unable to get to the Writing Center during open hours” (Pexton). From there, she explains how she created a way to help with problems like this, finding a time every wednesday for students (First-years or freshmen only) to come in and work on their papers, getting help in the process. These times scheduled are not like typical consultations however… Students are paired up with those who are having the same problems as them, letting them work together and help each other, all while knowing that there is an expert in the room if they get stuck. Consultants would wander the room, stopping into groups every couple minutes to make sure that they are doing okay. Personally, I believe that it would be beneficial to do this if our writing center was ever slammed and booked, with no other possible consultation time. This goes the same for other writing centers also, proving to be a method that works, something that other writing centers might want to look into starting if they are always slammed. I enjoyed this article; it opened me up to some insight on what other writing centers have done to help their students with their writing.

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  3. I really agreed with Valerie Pexton on her idea that meddling can be useful. I really agreed with her points on how freshman don't come to writing center and why. I feel that I really connected with this article from the way she describes freshman. It really explained the same way I felt awhile ago when I was a freshman. For instance, the way Pexton describes the feelings freshman are going through because of the new lifestyle is very realistic to my or anyone's life. People usually dislike change and will fight it as much as they can. This article that's Pexton wrote not only connects with individuals, it also connects with Writing Centers at large. Most writing centers also have troubles with getting freshman to come for consultations. So, just like in the article, many Writing Centers meddle, or pay attention to the freshman and come up with ideas to draw them in. Also, I believe that eventhough the Mattawan Writing Center is located in a highschool, we still do the same things. The MWC tries to find ways of informing the freshman by overall meddling into their time schedules and interest.

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  4. In this aritcle, I especially loved the way she related it to Star Trek, since I know a lot about it and am a total nerd. It seems like a wonderful example to use when making this point, sometimes meddling is better for the greater good and cann be beneficial. This is not the case for everything, but it seems like it would be for most, especially when it comes to a writing center that isn't as highly publicized. I definitely agree with this idea of modifying a center to fit better with certain curriculums and classes, while still maintaining a helpful environment and still assissting students. In our writing center at least, there are very few instances where freshmen and sophomores make appointments of their own volition and intent, rather than being prompted by a teacher to take the time to work with a consultant, and Pexton's argument that sometimes meddling is the only option seems to fit well with this dilemma. At Mattawan, the simplest way to meddle would seem to be presenting in underclassmen classrooms, explaining who we are, how to make appointments, and why we do what we do. I fell like this would receive a larger response from these students than just vaguely mentioning that the Writing Center exists. While we don't have the same problem of constantly having full appointment schedules, there is still the issue of encouraging underclassmen to visit the Writing Center. So, in some cases, we must meddle, but it might just be the best option.

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  5. In the article “Sometimes It’s Okay to Meddle,” Valerie Paxton compares Writing Centers to the Enterprise when it comes to interfering for the common good. More specifically, Writing Centers doing a little bit of meddling in their affairs with first year students. I enjoyed reading this article because Paxton used a story of her own Writing Center’s struggles to help others with the same issue. She made good points, especially when she asked, “if we are not serving everyone that could benefit from using the writing center, are we truly successful?” I agree with Paxton and Captain Kirk: interfering is sometimes to best way to get things done.
    Paxton’s advice to meddle can be used by any Writing Center. First years, no matter the location, all have the same struggles. Writing Center can assist first year students with adjusting to higher writing and overcoming their misconceptions about the Writing Center. Continuing to try different formats, schedules, and days of the week to increase participation can be done at any center. MHS Writing Center already does some meddling. Full class consultations, presentations in classrooms, and Major League Writing Day are all examples of MHS Writing Center being more involved than just one on one consultations. But, there are always ways we can improve. Maybe MHS Writing Center can do something similar to The University of Wyoming’s Writing Center’s “Wednesday Writing Workshop” for freshman students in the future.

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  6. What makes Valerie Pexton's article "Sometimes It's Okay to Meddle" so great is that she creates a connection between Star Trek and Writing Centers. The analogy, absurd at first glance, is actually quite appropriate. Star Trek's cast of characters follows a "Prime Directive" that creates a strict guideline for space exploration, while Writing Centers also have a certain expectation: to delve deeper into a student's work. Pexton makes the point, however, that the crew of the USS Enterprise does not always follow their Prime Directive to the letter. Their leader, Captain Kirk, often judges that an alien situation is simply too dire and important to ignore. More often than not, the crew succeeds in assisting the alien population and restoring the peace. Pexton continues by saying that Writing Centers must sometimes be like the crew of the Enterprise: unafraid to interfere for the good of the galaxy. Or the school. Because of a massive influx of clients in 2009, Pexton made the executive decision of offering a three-hour block one afternoon a week specifically for struggling freshman students. During this time, clients would not have one-on-one consultations, but rather group collaborations for a single issue with one consultant leading the discussion. She made this choice because she understood how much the freshman needed this time to acclimate college rigor. Yes, it may have interfered with a few of the students' previous engagements, but it was absolutely necessary for them to feel comfortable with their writing. Interference can be very dangerous and risky, but with good intentions and correct execution, it can prove to be very productive. Writing Centers may have to rely on this should productivity and effectiveness be threatened, but if they follow Pexton's example, then it should be no issue at all. Mattawan Writing Center could use Pexton's method should we have a great mass of clients to assist. Pexton's efforts to create more opportunities for students will undoubtedly lead to where no writing center has gone before.

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  7. Valerie Pexton, instructor at the University of Wyoming and author of the highly esteemed article "Sometimes It's Okay to Meddle", readily engages her audience with the unique comparison of the Star Trek series to modern writing center concerns. With the aid of her creative introduction, Pexton alleviates some tension pertaining to frustrated readers, and successfully proposes the idea of intrusive tactics to attract young clients. Pexton states that the freshman class, particularly, struggles "to adjust to the pace of college coursework and often wait too long to get help; they think of extra help as something akin to special ed". While the Mattawan Writing Center exclusively handles high school consultations, the concept of freshman conflicts still applies, as the students are brand new to the program and inexperienced in its procedures. Additionally, Pexton lends support to her theory with the observation that the youngest high school students "aren't used to finding resources on their own and don't always follow up on the information they do get; they don't manage their time well and are unable to get to the Writing Center during open hours." I agree wholeheartedly with Pexton's study, on account of the meager attendance of freshman clients within the MHS Writing Center, as well as my own personal experiences accumulated during freshman year. The solution of interfering with the common schedule to incorporate younger and less knowledgeable clients should indeed be adapted by the Mattawan Writing Center in order to extend writing center services to the complete student population.

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  9. Pexton made some very good points regarding the first years and their attendance to writing centers that all writing centers can take from. Pexton explains why it is sometimes difficult for the first years to get into sessions, and that identification can be very useful information for all writing centers wanting to address the problem. I enjoyed the comparisons Pexton made, and the simple story telling format. These aspects made the article more engaging outside of just looking for the answer to why meddling is sometimes good, an idea which I agree with. I believe our writing center can make great use of the writing workshop type days Pexton describes. Students would take a lot out of the focused writing setting, especially freshmen who may not feel very confident about their writing. We would be able to help them get the ideas on paper in a relaxed, positive way that puts them entirely in charge of their paper, preparing them for all future writing they will be doing, which is the end goal for the MHS writing center. Overall this was a very useful article, and I liked all the comparisons and ideas presented.

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  10. Valerie Paxton's "Sometimes it's Okay to Meddle" carries several valid points about the importance of meddling in writing center work. Her first success is relating it to Star Trek, because even those who aren't completely familiar, like myself, can get the idea about which aspects are most important and so on. Pexton describes that her writing center sees very few first year students, which isn't a problem with us. Many freshman are inclined to go to writing center because they want all the help they can get when it comes to the transition to high school writing. However, I feel that some form of meddling could always be beneficial. Pexton asks the questions that whether or not these students should be left alone if they don't respond to the help, finding that the answer is no. They still need to be informed and made aware of new opportunities. At our school, we do WCO's in order to inform students about the writing center. I think this is the first year we haven't done them, but many of our consultants have done a job of informing people this year. I don't know if I'd classify this as a form of meddling, but it is definitely getting out information out there.

    I don't think Pexton's tactics are necessarily needed for our writing center because our students know about us and our availability to them. If things begin to change, it might make more sense to see what possible tactics are. Until then, I think our writing center is extremely successful and doesn't need to change our ways of operation.

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  11. Reading this article, "Sometimes It's Okay to Meddle" the author, Valerie Pexten, has great connections, reasons, and data that not only supports her topic, but can connect to many writing centers around the nation. The connection between Star Trek and writing centers is a great way to explain the world of writing centers, and show that meddling can be a great strategy to get the best outcome out of a consultation. I agree, that many first year students don't come into the writing center unless they are forced too. Therefore, working with first years, it does usually take some interfering to get the student more interested in their own work. What I took away from this article is, that sometimes it is necessary to hamper more on a student's writing to have them more willing to get a good paper and to draw them in more to the writing center. From this article, we can apply this broad concept to our writing center. Many of the first year students we work with are either compelled to come to our staff, or come not open-minded about getting assistance. Meddling, might be the thing that draws more students in, if the students know, specifically high school students, know that a staff member has had their specific teacher, or has done a paper like the one they are writing, the students might be willing to come to our staff. As writing center as a whole, interfering may be a great thing to do and open opportunities for not only the students greater good, but for the writing center's too.

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  12. I really liked Peyton's article about interfering in the writing center. I liked the analogy she made between Star Trek and consultations. I also enjoyed how she gave some ways that we as writing centers must be able to identify our problems and figure out how to stop them. This connects to writing centers across the country because they must be able to figure out why something is working. Just as Peyton found data from her university that supported reasons why there was a decrease in appointments, writing centers everywhere must be able to examine their methods, figure out what could be improved, and figure out why something isn't working effectively. From that knowledge, writing centers can figure out a way to interfere to fix the problem, just as Peyton did. Once she knew what her problem was and what had caused it, she was able to deviate from the traditional appointment methods and create a new method that improved their system. This relates to the Mattawan writing center because we also must be willing to deviate from the standard, traditional methods in order to provide the best service for our clients. We must be willing to step in and meddle with the situation if needed, always keeping an open mind to your our consulting can be improved.

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  13. Out of all the articles we have read for this class, I think this was the most interesting. It gave a lot of important information about the workings of a college writing center under changing circumstances. The base idea I saw was when she stated, "it has become increasingly evident that one group could use a bit of meddling in their affairs -namely first-year students"(1). This article covered her school, the University of Wyoming, and how the writing center there dealt with the needs of different grades and levels of writing experience. The first years need the most help, because they're still trying to figure out what the teachers are looking for and they are not confident in their works. This is the same for us, in Mattawan's writing center. The fact that the freshmen "don't manage their time well and are unable to get to the Writing Center during open hours"(1) is true in this article and in our own writing center. Freshmen are the most difficult of the four grades to work with, because they have trouble getting into the center, they have trouble knowing what they need help with, and sometimes they don't even have enough to even work with. Just like Valerie Pexton says, "once these students cannot immediately get an appointment, they simply give up"(2). Exactly, again, in Mattawan's writing center, freshmen give up and just think 'I can go next time' or 'my paper's good enough now'. They get discouraged instantly and don't even try to get help. So, it seems that Pexton's writing center found a way to fit in freshmen for their own time, "a three-hour block of time one afternoon a week just for these students"(2). The freshmen came for help, for a place that was quiet, and for the support of peers and writing center members. The idea feels very beneficial to everyone involved. In our Mattawan writing center, this wouldn't be possible, because we are a single hour class and each student has their own responsibilities outside of that class. It sounds like a great idea, if it could be implemented and worked out, but it feels like it might be difficult to get into the current high school schedule as of right now. This article was a good example of how to distinguish issues that the writing center faces and then showed a clear example of how a possible solution could come about, it was very interesting to hear the solutions found for the University of Wyoming.

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  14. The article Sometimes it’s Okay to Meddle by Valerie Pexton explores the idea of encouraging first year students to visit the Writing Center. Personally, the selection is quite interesting as it uses the show Star Trek in order to make a point about consultants interfering with students in order to get things done and offer help to those who would benefit from it. This parallel was interesting, while the overall paper brings an excellent point to the table. The article talks about the freshman’s inability to come to Writing Center because it is time consuming, they are still adapting, and there are no walk-in. As a result, the Writing Center Pexton works at came up with a clever idea to solve the issue. I really like the idea of a three hour block. The author discusses their idea, “Since the appointment system was not working, we opened up a three-hour block of time one afternoon a week just for these students. Our decision to focus on Freshman Composition was purely practical” (Pexton 2). As a whole, students felt specifically invited to come to the workshop and things began to progress. Along with this, there was a different way of doing consultations. It was not the traditional one-on-one, it is done as a group which got things done.
    This has many uses in the writing center but it poses some flaws. I can appreciate the idea of holding a more unconventional way of doing consultations, while helping a variety of students. For Writing Centers as a whole, this is helpful because it covers a majority of information and it attracts more student. Many uses come out of this; however, it causes issues in the high school setting. Although the prompts for freshman may be the same, they all need different help. Some may struggle with grammar, others might have issues with organization. At the University of Wyoming, where this is held, the Writing Center has more consultants and more time. As high school student, many of us have extracurriculars and other discrepancies with scheduling. As far as bring in more freshmen goes, most freshmen cannot drive yet, so that also becomes an issues.

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  15. This by far is my favorite article so far. Prexton’s humor and allusion that begins this piece sets the tone of her writing. I agree that we do need to meddle to let our clients have the best outcome. This discussion on first year students is important to how all writing centers run their work, the fear that accompanies the first visit and how meddling can help them be more open to coming and help them write better. The Mattawan writing center can use this information by Appling it to the freshman who seem especially nervous.

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  16. In this article, Pexton explains why it may be difficult for the first years to get into slots for consultations, and that the identification could pose as very useful information to all writing centers wanting to address this certain issue. I really liked this article because it should certainly be put into all writing centers, especially Mattawan's. I have observed how nervous and intimidating the first visits are to the writing center. If the consultant and client have the time to conversate and meddle then it would create a more comfortable environment for both allowing for a smoother consultation. Having some sort of bond between the client and consultant will definitely make it easier for both parties involved. The nerves don't stop when your a second year or higher; however, if writing centers begin with freshman than it could help the process more for future clients. This should apply to the Mattawan writing center and consultants should be more aware of this point.

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