I chose to bring in a short GE essay on rewriting gender norms for my tutoring session—a fundamentally different piece of work than the kind my fellow classmate brought in to discuss. I had a five-page analytical paper that was handed in to one professor via hard copy. He had a personal narrative that was posted on a public blog site.
The notes I received on previous essays for this professor were all lower order concerns (grammar, punctuation, contraction use), although I knew there were a few higher order concerns I needed to address. I assumed, then, that I wouldn’t have many HOCs to address in this second paper.
As soon as I sat down and had to answer the question, “So what issues do you think you need to fix with this paper?” I realized that there were organizational issues I had problems with; I just hadn’t given it much thought. I’d treated this paper like I do all my GE assignments: I know the professors just want to check that I’ve read the textbook, so as long as I slap in some terms and concepts from the reading and relate them accurately to the prompt I’ll get a passing grade, no matter how much attention I pay to creatively crafting my words. That instantly makes me less invested in the paper and makes the assignment feel like fluff work. I spend an afternoon banging the paper out and I turn it in without any revision or rereading.
So, naturally, I was extremely reluctant to read the work out loud to my tutor and the two peer observers sitting in for our session. I would much rather have preferred not to look at this paper ever again, but, of course, that’s not the writing tutor way.
I did as asked and read the paper aloud. And it was instantly clear to me where my issues were—I went full film kid. The assignment asked for a breakdown of a contemporary pop culture artifact in terms of gender communication and then a potential rewrite of the artifact with gender equality in mind. I chose a recent film, and linked the importance of its gender characterization to a century-long history of feminism in Disney princess movies.
I bit off a bit more than I could chew; reading through the paper, I realized that I let my excitement for feminism in movies get away from me. I spent way too long detailing the history of Disney princess character construction and delved way too deep into the three act structure flaws in their latest film. Conversely, I barely spent any time pointing out the sexist elements—they seemed totally obvious to me—and arrived at my main argument halfway through the essay. If I’d just read through the paper once on my own I probably would have been able to target and fix these problems—compressing the details and more explicitly drawing out terms of gender communication.
I don’t know if my tutor felt as rewarded as me after our session, but she should have because she might have accomplished the true goal of writing center tutors: fixing the writer instead of the writing. Maybe, the next time I have to write a paper I have little interest in, I’ll actually read it over before handing it in!