I enter into the building experiencing some weird feelings, these ones that shake all the body. In fact, it was going to be the first time giving advice to a native speaker on his/her own language. I mean, let me insist on how weird this is for me.
Since I walked in to the writer’s room, I realized that everything was going to flow. I don’t know how to explain this feeling…maybe I could say I felt comfortable with the room’s setting/atmosphere. In the last post I explained how these people from the 826 organization have set a writing environment that invites learners to come back again and again. So, I also had this feeling, too.Once inside the room, all the tutors who were on duty during that shift were talking to each other about University stuff, as no student had walked into the room. This “boring” scene lasted until a big class of 30 students walked into the room. All of them had to work on the college essay, so we were supposed to help them out on reviewing this assignment.Honestly, this was the first time I had listened to an essay like this. In Spain, university application process is very different. If you want to study in a private university you will surely have to do a specific exam on that university. No essays are required to get into a university. However, since I didn’t have a clue about how to give feedback on a college essay, I started asking other tutors about how this college essay worked. They gave me some guidelines about generic characteristics and requisites for writing a successful college essay.Right after I ended the conversation with another tutor about college essays, a student from O’Bryant High School headed directly to me, asking for help. Of course, I said yes. Her name was Mary* and she was in 12th grade, looking forward of going to University next year. She asked me to read for her the work she had already done. Yet, as we had discussed in class with Professor Walzer, it is not a good technique to do the work for them. So I answered back by asking her a question: “wouldn’t you prefer to summarize the whole paper, so we both can see the big picture of what you want to transmit with this essay?” She said, yes.
Mary and I had this kind of “conference” on her college essay for the entire hour. She didn’t stop taking notes about new ideas that were coming out from her mind. I only had to ask her questions and to give her some tips on how to transmit feelings on essays. I am definitely not an expert, but I have used some of the tricks we have worked on in class. For example I suggested to Mary that a good way to appeal your feelings to a reader is by showing instead of telling. She had planned her college essay as a narrative writing about her experience at home, especially with her dad who put a lot of pressure on her.
After the 2 hour shift, I felt very happy with myself and I am looking forward to going next week, hoping I will experience the same.
*The student’s name has been changed.
Jorge is a student in Professor Belinda Walzer’s First-Year College Writing course. He is serving weekly in the John D. O’Bryant School of Math & Science Writer’s Room, a space staffed and run by 826 Boston.