Cassie Book: Alright, looks like we're good. So the first question is just totell me about what you remember about working in the UofL Writing Center.
Robert Royer: I started in the center in fall of 1979. I mainly started therebecause I needed a position. I needed a job. And funny thing is I got three offers within that one week. And I took two of them. I mean the others, one of them was working in a hospital doing intake, kind of thing. But it was going to be overnight. And that didn't appeal, but that wouldn't have been full time. And the other one was working as a clerk in a bookstore in what is now the Jefferson Mall. That book store's been gone for a long time. So I took those two, I took the bookstore job and I took the one in the writing center. Really just thinking of them as ways of paying my rent at the time. Cause I never thought about being a college professor. I mean I had people in my family who had gone to college, 1:00some of them had taught in college, but I just it just didn't seem right to me.
CB: So you were an undergraduate at the time?
RR: Well I had just graduated, so that is why I was trying to find a job. As anundergraduate, I paid my way through working at the Louisville Cardinal and I was editor for a year, and then I worked at The Thinker for a year. I worked at different levels at the newspapers. But when I started at the writing center, that would have been the fall of 1979. Susan Helgeson was the director of the center at that time. And Susan's someone that, as far as I know, somebody certainly knows her history, and what you know where she went. But I've 2:00completely lost track of her, and I don't think she stayed in Composition, but she completed her PhD here, um and I'm not, I do not remember whether she already had that when she was director when I was there, or whether she was still working on it. And I, I remember that there was a, I want to say a camaraderie that reminded me of the newspaper.
People would, it was just this big room, the two big rooms, that were not, therewas no partition between them, but there were desks set up so that there was uh sort of uh demarcation. First part of the room was used for classroom space because the writing center was the venue for teaching Basic Writing. And that's all it did. And it was called the Writing Clinic at that time. And it had been 3:00in place I think since at least 1974 because, as a freshman, I had a roommate and I believe that, I know he was assigned, because he'd always had trouble. He was dyslexic. He always had trouble writing. I had known him since he was like, we were both like eleven years old or something. And he had been assigned to go weekly to the Writing Clinic, and I assume it was the same, you know same place. It was located at that time in the basement of the Humanities Building. The um the group that were teaching there was very eclectic. There were a number of, I guess women in their, mostly women in their forties who had many of whom had 4:00been high school teachers and wanted a part time job. They were... very similar in their interest in what was, you know what they were teaching. I mean, that was the thing that really struck me. And at the same time, there are some creative writers who are older, and you know they were maybe retired even, and they're there, for kind of the same reason. And then there's all these graduate students, that are. And then they're people like me who are just hired in because they met some criteria they had for what they needed.
I started out as a tutor, which meant that I met three students at a time, um Ithink three days a week, and... there were classes being taught where there were 5:0015 students and there was a more experienced writing center worker directing those. And that's where the three students would come from, so they would be a small cohort. They were very successful, I think with that. But the cost of it was prohibitive. The paying me to teach at a decent wage at that level just didn't, didn't really come out to be something they could uh they could sustain, you know they couldn't get that from tuition and the school didn't see it, I don't think, probably, a real purpose of trying to retain students who were not yet prepared for college. That is the way that the Writing Clinic worked probably for the year before I got there and then the first year I was there, and Dr. Comprone who was the director of comp at that time approached me and 6:00some others of us, Wanda Martin, who was also kind of like I was. She had a BA. She, she was uh an experienced technical writer. She had worked for Data Courier here in Louisville. And she was looking for more part time work that she could do. I mean part time being maybe 20 or 30 hours a week, but you could be there the whole time and work if you needed that. And there were two or three others like that, they were not really involved in the program. And he approached most of us and asked if we would be interested in starting in the master's program. And um, that he could get us, he thought he could get us a GTAship. I don't think at that time there were any GTAs who were counting the Basic Writing work as one of their courses. He thought he could work it out so that we could do that. So we would keep the um, keep those hours the way they were. And a number 7:00of us did take him up on that and began in the master's degree program. And the-- some of us were really wound up teaching what at UofL certainly would be a full time position. We were teaching maybe 5 or 6 sections, so um yeah.
CB: Of the basic writing, or both?
RR: A combination of that and and writing one and two, because once we got theGTAship, and we had gone through a semester, cause again they didn't have. The SACS still had that requirement, but no one enforced it at that time. You could teach in your um second semester, even with only 12 or 15 hours, which now I think is 18. 8:00
CB: yeah I think so.
RR: That's what we're caught under, so that's what I'm figuring it is. Soanyway, we were teaching 101, 102, and I don't know if comp 1 and comp 2 were, probably have different names now, we do at our school, than we did at that time.
CB: It's 101 and 102 here yeah. Introduction and intermediate.
RR: And we had, then maybe 3 or, 3 sections of basic writing. And then we hadsummer classes too, so you could make, you could make a living. Uh you know as a graduate students, I mean that does pretty well. And then you've got your GTA stipend, and I'm just bringing all of this up because it's odd for me looking back at that now and thinking about how useful that was for me because of how many schools I could go to, and they say well what do you think about teaching three courses? I'd laugh and say "I've already been teaching five!" You know? 9:00
RR: And you know that and what we would, what I found very useful throughout mycareer at the writing center was how much the teachers found the help of each other and the discussing of how they taught and and what they wanted to try out and whether others have tried it out and what might happen and our hearing them teach in the nonexistent other classroom that was just on the other side of those desks that separated us. So we could hear people teaching and we could talk "and what was going on there?" and that kind of thing. I've never had that happen. I've got this odd sense that this is what it is. This is what being a college professor will be. And, no. It's not. And when we would do things like uh placement exams and we would do, we had exit exams that we had multiple gradings on. Not like not using the technique that um, I'm trying to think um 10:00you had a comp director here before Bronwyn who had this technique of, of having people read the work that students had written, and then if you were looking to see whether that student was going to go into English 200 or I'm sorry second class. Then teachers who taught that class would be reading it and they would say "This student could succeed." And the same thing about 100, or 101. They would have teachers who were familiar with those papers coming out, of say 099 or whatever. I think we had English 100 was the number we used when I was here. So you would have that. That's a technique that came after I was here, we were still using primary trait scoring guides. And doing a lot of training and we would do many kind of ETS training sessions as we went through. And everybody 11:00was paid. Uh I think we were paid by the test.
CB: and this was all through the writing center?
RR: It was all through the writing clinic. And we would bring in people if theywanted to, to read these papers and work with us, they got paid too. I mean if they were from the Comp 1 Comp 2 faculty. We didn't get that many who were interested. We even looked at midterms that way. We were very interested in you know Peter Elbow's ideas.... Ann Berthoff's ideas, Lee O'Dell who came up with a lot of those scoring kind of things. Uh Sandra Perl also. And we had those people come in and talk to us. We had a debate between Maxine Hariston and oh oh 12:00um her her archenemy. They had very different views on things and she's still alive. She lives out in California. Her daughter is also a Composition person. But my memory for names is sometimes.
CB: I remember reading either in my comp theory or my femist rhetoric class,Hairiston and. There was a debate
RR: There was a debate. And they were in the basement of this library. Thelibrary had just opened and they they carried on the debate for us. And we got to ask them questions, it was. But we had things like that. It was, I mean that's what universities do. But to a lot of us, it was like "wow," you know we can't go to see these rockstars. But they're coming to see us. Somebody was paying for it. But those are the things I remember. I think the writing center time was the most fundamental to me for how I learned or didn't learn laughs to teach and how I interact with students. And it always bothered me, still does, 13:00when I go into a school and you hear faculty, and I'm talking about a college. You hear faculty say "well we were never taught to teach." You know, it angers me, really because I want to say "well then what are you doing here? What did you learn, you know?" Cause I really felt like we were taught to teach. And yet I didn't think that it was, you know it was like Bronwyn was saying, it's not a waste, you know. It's not like what you think of as just lesson planning or something. It's really trying to make what you know into a form that other people can learn. And at the same time, learn from your students, you know. What do they need? So many times when you know I'll go back and especially if I have 14:00a small enough class, I'll say "read this paper to me," which is something we always tried to do if we could. I have the student hold the paper in front of them while they're reading it and I'll say don't say it to me, read it to me. And they'll stop and say "well that's not what I wrote," you know. I mean just small things like that. But you know those are the techniques that are like psychological psychotherapy kind of thing. It's a way you get the students to react to the persona that you have. And I learned how important, sort of maintaining a persona, an honest persona is in a class. That you have to be able to interact with students in a way, especially in a writing class. I don't necessarily approach say teaching Chaucer at the graduate level in the same way. I don't think people would expect me to in that way, but if it's an undergraduate writing course, then I want to get really close to the students. I want to help them figure out how can you take the requirements that are over 15:00here for this class and turn it into something that when you're finished, you'll be you'll be proud to work with it. And I have had students, and I will admit that it's a minority. But I have had students who've been able to go out and get you know, five digit grants, you know for projects that they wanted to work on. And they were able to write them in my class, now whether my class helped them write it, I have no idea really. I did see an improvement in most cases what they were doing, but I did give them the time and space to do that. And they came out thinking that they got something from it. And I've had students come up with projects that they could again like for example I had I had a pair of students, I let them work together. They were both in their 40s, so again 16:00nontraditional students, I was younger than they were at that time. And they were very upset about the absence of a stoplight on a major highway in their town. And I said, that can be your project! Figure out, how to get that stoplight? And they did all the work. They discovered for example that the county had the state had investigated putting a stoplight there. And they had done tests about it. And they said, and they came up with this on their own. What was the weather then? And they looked at it and they found that it was during rainy days. And they went to insurance records, and they found that during days that were generally rainy, that the level of traffic is reduced on roads like that. So that that was not a good test that they had done. And they went back to the State. I don't know if they were successful, but they went through the process, so I guess that's one of the success stories. But those, 17:00all those kinds of things come out of the experience that I had in the writing center, more than any other thing that I did as a graduate student I think.
CB: Because you were working with writers so closely?
RR: That's right. And because you had to, and again in that case it actually wasa good thing that they were not writers who were labeled as being prepared for uh for English because they were more open, I think to um to trying to figure out what they wanted to do, at that level. And then you can apply those same kinds of ideas to students who are at the junior, senior level, who were pretty sure of what they wanted to do. But helped them see ways that they can approach it differently. And I found that when I first started teaching 101 that it was quite an adjustment I think, cause then you have students who are sure that, 18:00they don't even need the course. They are ready. And you're just a graduate student, and you're only four years older than I am. All those things are true. Maybe they were wrong about the four years, but you know it's. It was such a different thing I didn't expect that so much.
So then I had to take what I was in those classes now, here comes a writingcenter again. Here's Wanda Martin and Hephzibah Roskelly and and Kate Ronald and Susan Helgeson, Judith Killen. All these people. There was uh Kate's sister, who's now passed away. Laura Harpring. She was probably, I guess she was in her late 50s, maybe even in her 60s at that time. She was teaching in the writing 19:00center. She was a student of Sister Marian Joseph. Sister Marian Joseph was a teacher at, I think St. Mary's College, wrote a textbook for teaching writing in college in the 1930s and 20s. She also wrote a series of books about how Shakespeare was influenced by his grammar school. And she tracked down grammar school books that Shakesopeare would likely have had and found turns of phrases and things like that. And then later see people have done research on Shakespeare and they've found letters from Stratford from the government offices, the equivalent of government offices, there's phraseology that is very similar to what you'd find in the plays. And so that makes it even better, you know makes him even better in a way. But, learning from you know being in that situation, learning from someone who had learned from someone else is I guess what I'm getting at there. Uh and and feeling that with the others who had you 20:00know were maybe two or three years uh further on than I was, maybe you know somewhat more older than that, but uh but they had been working in the, they had their master's degrees and they were working on their doctorates, or they were almost finished with their master's degree, that kind of thing. And so I have these problems and you know what? Here's what went on in my 101 class. I can imagine the teacher who doesn't have that, you know to be able to go in there and say "here's what went wrong in my class, and what am I going to do next?" And then have you know to have people who aren't going to say to you "well you just didn't do that right," you know but are going to say "let's talk about it" and sit around and say "well what about this way?" or what if you how have you reacted like this?" and that kind of thing. I think that was really very 21:00helpful. And again, that's learning how to teach, you know so having that, having that set up was very useful. And it goes really well with what I think of as at least what used to be, it may still be the UofL philosophy, which is kind of people becoming autonomous, people being able to control their own futures in some way. Giving people something they can use to go forward on their own, without making it impossible for them to succeed. It's hard thing to explain, I guess. but I do remember ---
CB: People being the GTAs? Or students?
RR: People being able to come in and and help the students succeed by workingwith what they already and having a certain amount of autonomy but yes also the people in the writing center had a level of autonomy. You know it was like we were making the decisions about how it ran. We had our own little newsletter 22:00that we came out with. We had a bound book that we gave to all the students. And here's the exercise --
CB: Do you still have any of that?
RR: Somewhere they may be. But I bet you somebody does. There were still somearound with Ruth Miller. We had an old Gestetner machine and I used to run that. It's uh. --- it's a copying machine
CB: I thought I found a newsletter at one point.
RR: These were spiral bound books that were, they originally I think they werecalled like the clinic journal, then it changed to the writing center journal and oh there was, her first name was Pat but I can't remember her last name. She was, she worked here for a long time. And she was the person who edited that for quite a while. But that was our textbook for many years. Well 2-3 years. 23:00
CB: You produced your own textbook that you used in the basic writing classes?And in the writing center?
RR: That's right. We had this book. we made it on the Gestetner machine It'slike what communists used to use to make their pamphlets and hand them out. It uses silk screen technique. There's a company in Louisville that still services those. I looked them up recently. But um that autonomy was important and and you learned quite a bit from that um --
CB: So there was a director?
RR: And I think that was uh, Suasn was there for at least two years, maybethree. I know she was there all of my first year. And I know she was already there before that. But I don't remember if she was director then but at some point that would always shift. And there would be like an application process, 24:00but it had to be someone who was in the PhD program, I think is how they worked it out so there would be a PhD student that worked. There were enough people who were interested in it, there weren't so many that it was onerous to try to find someone. It wasn't, people weren't knocking at the door because it was actually, it was a real job. I mean in that it wasn't like uh I don't want to say it that way, but if you know if you get a um you get a fellowship, then it's given to you to do your research and to produce some work as a result of it. But uh the directorship was, you sit in this office, you deal with these problems, you answer the phone, you figure out what people have to do. And and that's your job. And you can complete your classwork and other things during the same time and they would also get, I believe they also got their tuition paid for too if they still were working on their PhD. But that's what um, that's how they had 25:00Susan, and that's how they had Hephzibah and that's how they had Kate and Forrest Gillette, who the last I talked to him was about two years ago, and he was, I think at Sullivan. He was at Ball State for a number of years and he moved back to Louisville. But those were the directors who I remember being under that system. Maybe Wanda Martin was too. But I think once Ruth Miller came in that that it became to be more of like a staff director position. She was also in the graduate program, but I think they moved her into well we're gonna have someone long term--
CB: Like a full time?
RR: Full time, that's right. yes. So was a full time staff member--
CB: Because I inherited that job. When they changed over to this writing center,Ruth was the Associate Director.
RR: That's right. When they got a full time director who was a faculty member,then she became the Associate Director. I talked to her a few years ago. When I 26:00came here for some training at the Delphi Center.
CB: Oh okay.
RR: Yeah so you know what that position was then.
CB: More or less. What you're telling me is, I'm so interested and amazed. I'mreally fascinated about the history. Because I know none of that.
RR: It's almost like, I don't know you're too young, Spanky and our gang, butyou probably know what we're talking about. It's like we're peanuts, you know. It was always like wamp wamp wamp somewhere, but the Peanuts are putting on their own play and everything. And the adults, Dennis Hall and you know Tom Van, and Joe Comprone. There over here somewhere. You know they're there, but unless you really screw up, you know, they're not gonna bother you because you're, I think we had a better than average success rate with our remedial students, especially given the, what they were expected. I mean these were students who 27:00were predicted not to be able to get through their first year of college. And we were able to show some success, especially with that first model I told you about, where there was a workshop of 15 and then it was broken out into into smaller meetings of three students--
CB: So they changed it from that?
RR: They changed it to like a regular classroom. It was still, I think it wasstill 15, it may have been 12, but I think it was still 15 and those were just regular classes.
CB: and there was no breakout?
RR: And there was no breakout. That was right. And there was no real tutoringgoing on at that point, but students would certainly come to talk to you about their, you know. So you were both the instructor and the tutor. And there was no drop in tutoring. There was no appointment tutoring. I don't think there was ever any official drop in or um tutoring like that. But I do recall that either it was when I was the Assistant Director or maybe it was just when I was, you know had been teaching there quite a while that they asked me to tutor a dental student from China. Who was not taking Basic Writing. I guess, I think she 28:00probably came in and said she needed to take the Basic Writing Course and they decided that it was better to just have her work with a person directly in the evenings because she couldn't really come in during the day anyway because of her other classes. And I was available, so. So I did that. But we did not do that on a regular basis. But it did serve as a place for the graduate students to find part time employment for other companies. At that time around Louisville there were a lot of companies who were looking for technical writers. And Wanda Martin worked for Data General, I'm sorry, Data Courier, which was kind of a web 29:00search type company, but there was no web to search at that time, but they do that kind of work and they amassed indexes that were context. Those kind of indexes where they take a word, and they take the five words on the sentence on this side, and the five words on that side. and then they just, every time the word appears, they run it down the center. It's called a "quick index." I doubt they make them anymore. But that used to be what you would find in the library, if you did a search in the natural or social science, so you could see how many times was a certain word mentioned, and you could trace the context of it and with that you could find the index and Data Courier did that kind of thing. Some of it by hand and some of it later one, most of it by computer later. But when she was doing it, it was mostly by hand. GE would come to UofL and ask the 30:00English department for technical writers and they would often come to the writing center and say do you have anybody who would be interested in doing this? And there'd often be a senior graduate student, some of our instructors were not graduate students. Some of them were part time lecturers. They had a fund for, they could hire part time lecturers. And they were people who already had their degrees, but again, like the ones I mentioned before, they were interested in making some extra money, and they didn't want another full time job. There was Warren Secamp who retired from his business. He owned a business here in Louisville, and he'd had a degree in English and he was interested in Creative Writing and he worked there for many years. He was probably in his 60s. And you know he wasn't working for money. He was working for something to do, and working with the students. But they had a number of people like that, you know that were working there. Um. I haven't seen that in other really in other 31:00places. I'm sure at that time maybe writing centers did depend on community--
CB: Well some writing centers have what they call professional writingconsultants, so they're not students, they're not graduate students, but it's someone like you said that's working their part time or even fulltime that already has their degree and that's their full time job or part time job
RR: So there's probably a model then, that they were following. That's one thingI never knew. and none of us that were there at the time that we were working there knew exactly where this start.
CB: Well writing center studies was barely even getting off it's feet at thatpoint. So there might not have been a model or maybe they're pulling it from Basic Writing or something like that.
RR: I do know that a lot of what we did came from from interest in what wasgoing on at CUNY.
RR: Which, this is an aside, but I, there was a language lab across the hallfrom where we were. I never learned to type in high school. And my high school 32:00you didn't take typing if you were going to go to college. Instead, you took something else like psychology or something else, you know. That was just the way it worked. But I had typed since I was in the like 4th grade, but I always hunt and pecked. And I was you know decent at that. But I made, you know a good deal of mistakes. So everybody who couldn't really type on their own, they would go to Virginia Callan who was at that time the office administrator for the english department and she would charge them a certain amount of money to type up their dissertations or theses. And make sure that they followed the right format, so she was like a Kate Turabian of UofL's English department. And I thought you know I don't think I can afford, the kind of mistakes and the number of times I need to rewrite paragraphs, I don't think I can afford that. So I'm 33:00going to have to learn to type somewhere. And I convinced myself that it was less expensive to buy a computer. So I bought a computer and the language lab across the hall, the director of that was uh completing his dissertation, and his focus was on German exploration of the Louisville area before the Falls of the Ohio were affected by you know any, before there was any damn or anything there, when it was still basically wilderness. And he was into this nascent group of computers and writing people. He had just met them at this conference. and he said "I think you'd like these people." And he put me in contact with them.
CB: Because you bought a computer!
RR: Because I bought a computer, yes! And I was gonna do my dissertation onPlato's dialogues at that point. And um Comprone and others said that's really 34:00good, yeah. Nobody's done that stuff in a long time, you know. And it's ok that sounds good! So I connected up with a guy named Michael Spitzer at New York Institute of Technology. And he was the head of the Center for English, I think. They didn't have departments at that time. And um I knew him for, they had a bulletin board, and said I met all these people, this was before, by the way there was an internet, although I had an acquaintance as an undergraduate and through that acquaintance I was able to get the English department ot allow me to teach a computer based writing course in Dale Ally's writing center, I mean language lab, because they had computers in the back! And I knew the guy who was 35:00in charge. His name was Hanz Fielder. And he heard me talking to the head of IT. And he called me. He said "I know what you're looking for. I know the guy, the Math professor. I don't remember his name, you were talking to has no idea what you're tell him. Come and see me." So I went over to see him. I think it was Strickler was where they were located at that time, in the basement. And um he introduced me to UofL's Vax computer, he gave me a modem. And he gave me an account. and he got me connected up. And he taught me how to program enough that I. Cause I already knew some. I had I had stolen some passwords when I was a freshman and had learned to program basic computers here. So I knew a little bit about programming. but he helped me put up a class. A Basic Writing Class. It 36:00was the first, I guess, writing class on the Vax computer they had here, that was. It was a writing class where students could dial in and they could upload their papers, and they could leave them there, and I could write back to them and then we would meet in a classroom with computers, over in the old Natural Science, well it's still classed that, the natural science building and we were in that class for a few years and through that I you know learned how to work with bulletin board systems, so I met these people in New York Tech. I mean because I knew how to work with the bulletin board systems, I was able to get connected to the New York Tech. And introduced to. And I met a lot of people and learned more about how computers and writing work, and that's how I brought computers into some of the classes in the writing center. But Michael Spitzer contacted me the year before I finished my dissertation and said "would you like 37:00a job? I've got a job in Manhattan and it's yours if you want it." And I told him I couldn't do it at that point because i hadn't finished my dissertation. And it was a really good idea that I didn't, I mean I could have picked it up, but you know I don't think it would have worked out all that well to have have moved to New York and tried to finish a dissertation at UofL. I think now that could have been done. Because there's ways of doing all that distance, but there really wasn't much at that time.
CB: yeah you're right
RR: and you would never convince your teachers that, laughs, that--
CB: that it's a good idea
RR: An "I'll come and see you kind of thing" would not not be the way. So I said"keep me in mind." And um two years later I had my dissertation and I applied for a job they had there um and and I got that job. And that's how I ended up away from uh from Louisville and in an office nextdoor to, here it comes, Maxine Hairston. 38:00
CB: oh really?
RR: She had taken on a position at New York Institute of Technology, and I mether again there. But um my point in bringing that up is that there are these strange kind of connections that came just as being in that center all that time where there was so much of a cynergy going on. And the people that I worked with were very interested in what I was doing with computers. And I saw it is as just the kind of natural outflow of my not wanting to pay, you know $1400 to have someone write my dissertation for me, when I could spend $1800 and get a computer out of it, you know. And at that time, that was, right now you know I would see that as a lot of money. But you know at that time, it was, the car I 39:00was driving cost I think $3400 new.
CB: Did most people do that? Pay the money to get the dissertation typed up?
RR: Most of the people in my department who were not professional typists Ithink did that. They didn't have to pay her. She was actually very reasonable. But she charged for each time she would have to to type up, you know. So if you had to have revisions done, so everybody really kvetched over whether you know should I go ahead and give this to her now, or should I make the revisions myself and then give it to her, you know that kind of thing. Many of them would even take their own typewritten copy that they put together and cleaned up by hand, and they would give that to her, and she would transcribe that, and of course that didn't cost as much. But if you had to work everything out by hand, or if you had a lot of errors, it was more of a problem. But you know it's also a justification. You know, so. Well I can imagine it would have cost me that much even though it you know the least it cost was $600. And the most I had 40:00heard anyone pay was $1600, so you know so it uh I figured that I'm judging that I'm gonna be at the far end of it, so I can't afford to do this. And that made a lot of a difference in how I went forward with what I was doing. And I became the person that people would ask in the center about you know working with computers and I think having learned how to do that in the center with that equipment nearby and with everything that you know was there that I could work with, it again made it more a part of me. And and maybe that's the way with. I mean that's the way this place seems, actually, to me. Um but so much here at UofL seemed that way to me and when I talked to people that went to Vanderbilt and other places, they say "oh that's not the way schools like." You go there, you get the teachers, they grade your papers, and I just didn't I got this sense that that that wasn't the experience. But I think if you talked to others who 41:00had been here at the same, that they would say similar things about it.
CB: That's funny because that's kind of what my dissertation's on. I'm studyinga cohort of the writing consultants, the master's students and so they work in the writing center for a year, and then they teach their second year of the program and i'm really interested in the impact that the writing center makes, not just of course in their teaching, but also i how they think of themselves as a teacher and as a scholar and what they end up doing after they finish their master's program and how they're approaching writing in their classes.
RR: Well. Now let's get personal. Um this just came to mind. So I got marriedwhile I was at the writing center. And the writing center staff gave me a shower, laughs.
CB: Two of our consultants just told us that they were dating. So it still happens.42:00
RR: My wife was actually a client of the writing center, the year before westarted dating. And I wasn't at the writing. I was still an undergraduate then. But she had Hepsie for her 102 teacher. And uh I helped her with her writing on that. And I still wasn't at the writing center at that time. I was still working on my undergraduate degree. Well we had our daughter while we were there, and they gave us another shower. Um and they you know they were very interested in uh in her progress and they still ask me about her, and how she's doing, you know. So it's like... almost thirty years ago, you know? So it's not it's um not that many jobs that you would have where you know people would remember that kind if thing, where you know and so I think that happened because of where it was. And I found the same kind of thing with the Louisville Cardinal, I mean 43:00it's so you know maybe every school is that was and I just don't know it, laughs.
CB: I have some lostical questions, so you were a consultant the entire time youwere a graduate student? All through your MA and PhD?
RR: That's correct. There was one year I got a uh oh some kind ofinterdisciplinary fellowship, which meant that I could not teach. I got a uh dispensation because the fellowship was to finish my dissertation, my dissertation was about my teaching, so I said well you know I can't really do one without the other, maybe just one class. So they did let me keep one class. And that was a basic writing class, but for every other year I was was working as a consultant or tutor in the ---
CB: What did they call it?
RR: We were instructors at that point because um they started calling it the44:00"writing center" in probably 1980, you know that "clinic" is like there's a disease, oh you know that that argument. I don't think you call things writing clinics anymore.
CB: I don't think so.
RR: But um i think we were just called teachers or instructors at that point.Probably not called instructors because that has another meaning. That's your rank and all that. We weren't really doing tutoring at that time, but we were tutoring our own students on a need basis. We ran, most of us ran our classes as workshops. So in that way it's very much. We were following a model that later on I found was very similar to the Iowa Writing Project model. Or the writing 45:00workshop model. Because I met someone who came from there and we discussed what we had.
CB: How were you trained?
RR: We were actually thrown into it, but with people all around us who hadexperience, so I mean it was like you had to go do this and they would tell us about you know what was expected and what we could expect, but as far as like observing, there wasn't time for that, I guess you'd say. In other words, they couldn't pay you to observe. So they observed you by you're being in the same room as everyone-- because all the tutoring was going on in the same room. And there were just little carrel so you knew what other people were doing. And only people who had been doing that for at least a semester could teach a workshop, and they had their own classroom in most classes. So that, really that-- and 46:00then there would be professional development I guess we call it today, but there would be days, again that sitting around the whole big round table and talking about well what do you want to do for the midterm? What do you think about this idea? How would we score this? What are the primary traits we're looking for here? You know what are the, now we call them performance indicators. What our outcomes that we're trying to achieve. All those things were the same, but they changed their names. We didn't use the word "rubric," for anything, for example. But it was it was a consensus kind of decision because not only were you deciding what your students were going to have to do, but you were also dealing with how's it gonna be scored, and how am I going to interpret what I'm scoring. You know all the kinds of norming and stuff. And that was part of the training too. 47:00
CB: So all the classes were same? All the basic writing classes?
RR: All the basic writing were the same in the way that many writing classesthat follow a standard syllabus are the same
CB: okay okay
RR: But the way they were taught might be different. But the most obvious formthat was used, because it worked well with 12 or 15 students was like a workshop model, where you could maybe pair students together and have them work on projects while you're working individually with some others. And that probably came a little bit too from the fact that most of the people up through maybe the first three years I was there, most of the people had gone through that structure that I talked about before, the three on one, with one tutor and the separate workshop. So they had that as a background and maybe three or four years later there were enough newer people coming in that they didn't, they'd never experienced that, so that was not part of their, you know original. That's 48:00kind of training. They really explained the tutoring as kind of training for teaching the class at a later point.
CB: So it wasn't very, it was like top down where they told you "you need to doclasses this way" you got together with all the other instructors, and you made a kind of collective decision bout
RR: That's how I remember it. And that was the good thing. And that was why Isaid the thing about kind of side track myself but uh Cathy, my wife, she commented a number of times later on about how the writing center had a way of doing, you know, collaborating and working together and coming up with ideas that she had not seen. I mean she had worked maybe in a few situations with, she was a graphic designer. And maybe in a few situations where they would come up with plans for projects they were working on, but in most clases it was "here's 49:00your job. and do this job this way." And she was used to that, and then when we went to other places, if they had a standard syllabus, it was completely worked out. If they didn't, there was no discussion about you know how your class was. Unless you could make that happen with another teacher, but oftentimes they were not really interested in doing that.
CB: Why do you think it was like that at the writing center? Just?
RR: Well I don't know. I mean... the people. You know I guess it doesn't have tobe that way. But you've got someone like Wanda Martin who reads Mother Jones and is a subversive to begin with, or seems that way. And you've got, you know people like Kate and Hepsie who come from families where they're you know they 50:00were well-protected, you know there was just a sense that people know what they're doing so therefore, who am I to really tell you exactly what to do?
CB: so it was a purposeful..?
RR: Yeah I don't think they were neglectful because there was so much successthat they had, but the leadership was more of of um you know "we're working on this together." And then you've got the other thing. You've got these younger women, who are in charge, but you've got these older women who are doing most of the work, so I think that changes things. You know because it's like I know when I first started teaching full time, I mean as a job, I was actually getting paid to teach full time. But you know I would have classes where most of the students would be 10 years older than I was because I was teaching at a school that had a lot of nontraditional students and sometimes that's kind of daunting you know. So I think if you're directing a program and you're the young person and the 51:00people you're directing are, have more experience than you do, then there are different ways to do it you know. There's what I think the wrong way is you're gonna do it this way and the old ways are out, or there's the better way which is "what have you learned and how can we do this?" because you've got a whole group of people who had a lot of experience with working with students of all ages and that's how you you come to some. you know it helped that the classes that we were teaching. This is bad, but you know these are the students who aren't going to succeed.
CB: they were labeled as that.
RR: It helped because you knew that you could try things and you knew if youmoved the needle a little bit, that you were having a success because if those students hadn't had this um work, they would they would not succeed. And so if any of them can succeed,
CB: It can only get better52:00
RR: That's right. I think the national average then was 66% of those types ofcourses failing, and ours was a little better than that. Oh not well. It was, we had more passing than that in ours. And that uh we were proud of that. I'm sure that there were schools that did even better than that, but we were higher than the average. and that's probably what helped us on that level. Again Susan Helgeson would be the person to know more about that because she was the one involved in getting the funds together to create the system of the three tutors and you know. And so I'm pretty sure she was involved in that grant, or whatever it was, they found that money Because i know the money ran out on it and it was considered to be very expensive
CB: Do you know how many years they did it like that?
RR: at least two, maybe three years. It hadn't been in place very long when Icame there. Maybe it, maybe just one year or maybe even just a semester that they had had it. But I know I taught in that kind of program for I think two 53:00years if i remember correct, I mean again things do get a little fuzzy since 1979 but um
CB: So what type of writing were the students writing?
RR: We started out a lot, this was the age of personal narrative, we also did alot of very very structured prompt writing. My students either hate or love the prompts I give them. Some come to me and say I wish all my teachers would tell me what they want. You know, but some people find that off putting, they want to just start up and work um we did a lot of elaborate prompts especially for the exams, the midterm and the final you know we would give them a scenario and we would then there would be some little paragraph that would say "This is the outcome. What would you tell the doctor in this case?" you know or something 54:00like that. So it was, there were specific contexts, describe, sometimes there were letters, sometimes there were short memoranda. Sometimes it meant for example we had a case, this one came from a newspaper, where it was a woman that was working in a factory in Louisville cut her hand on something on the factory line. It was something had gone wrong with the line and um so there was a jagged piece of metal that came down the line and she cut her hand on it and she tried to get coverage from her employer and I think the employer argued that it was her fault because she wasn't paying attention or something like that, it was obviously a good situation to have as a prompt and they were supposed to write if you were this person, write a letter to explain why it is necessary or why it 55:00is, or why your employer should pay for this, this injury that is not that happened to you on the job. And those were the kinds of things, stuck on the highway and um the road service passed you by, you know write a complaint letter, those kinds of assignments, which um probably wouldn't use today, but you know. And and they would encourage us for example to write the answer ourselves and to talk to this students about how we came up with a response to it, and that's something I use today you know I'll try to if i give an assignment that's a self-contained assignment like that i'll often write the response and then talk to them you know about what goes in my head when I'm doing that, and you know with this ame caveant that I already knew what was going on here. But at least it gives them a sense of it. So those are the kinds of things that we did most of the time, we did not. I don't recall except for 56:00one year when Forrest was um the direction did we ever do things like quizzes. He liked sometimes that actually was pretty good, sentence combining. That was Lee Odell, oh that's not right. O'Hare and two or three other people, they were at Ohio State. The idea of you know that you can combine parts of sentences together to make new sentences and these are called kernels and you can get all sorts of kernels and put them. We tried to run an entire semester, an entire year on that model.
CB: Sentence combining
RR: and you know I thought if they had just done this in 4th grade it probablywould be really good, you could get them to do it but you get a bunch of college students in here and say 'Ok you're going to take these sentences and put them together and more sentences' and it didn't work very well, but we had prompts like that so for example we would give them a quiz on it or something or we would do T-tests on how could they, could they pick out the main words on this? 57:00But mostly we did those kinds of, what would be equivalent of placement tests, or exit exams. But again there were some deviations on that over the years.
CB: So when you worked with students 1-1 or 3-1 what types of issues did theyhave with their writing and what was your approach to work with them?
RR: You know sometimes they really thought that their problem was they didn'tknow the difference between nouns and verbs. And um I think it didn't take me very long to decide that taking the time to to try to like give them the lessons in nouns and verbs probably wasn't going to help their writing. And that's where things like sentence combining can come in I think. So sometimes you know they would know what they needed. They would say "I have trouble when I come up with 58:00an idea of following it through, and i would read what they wrote and I would say "yes you do." And then you know that's, there's an ease to that because they recognize it and you can think about I can ask them questions about. "What did you really want to do here? When did you when did you begin to move away from this? What caused you to?" Well I wasn't sure I believe what I was saying. Oh well then maybe your main idea needs to change. Maybe you need to throw out your main idea and just write what you know and come back and come back with what is your main idea? See at that time, most people weren't using computers. They were writing by hand. And so the idea of of being able to go back after you'd finished something and change it when it had to be clean when you turned it in meant that you were going to have to redo all of what you thought as the writing.
CB: I've always wondered about that
RR: It's hard for people to, I don't want to say hard, but it is kind of. And59:00you still see that in you know at Morehead you see students who've had high school teachers who probably near my age who learned teaching writing or if they did but they learned it at a time when when computers were keyboards. And so they they have no concept that they can sit down at a computer and compose. You can't imagine. Well you can, but you know. When I was first starting and working, I was composing at the computer from the beginning because when I was working for the newspaper, we all composed at the type writer. And so it just seemed like that's what you did with typewriters. I mean I didn't have anybody telling me that's not what you did, so that was I thought you did. But no other people would say no, that's for making it, that's for polishing it that's for making it look good you know. It's not for, you don't do the writing on the screen, you write on the paper, you know. And um it's been a long time to get people to maybe move a little bit on that. I think you could even five years ago 60:00you could find a lot of people who say that do not. And I still come across people actually who say don't try to compose with the at the screen, you know.
CB: I remember when I was in high school, it was kind of understood that youwouldn't compose at the screen and I was a little bit confused with myself when I was wanting to compose on a computer, writing and I was unsure about whether or not I should be doing it that way.
RR: Have you read anything about the IBM, but IBM sponsored some research inthey centered it in Florida probably it went through Gainesville because Gainesville had a lot of support from IBM. It was called reading to write. I mean writing to read, sorry, yeah. Writing to read. That is they taught students in Kindergarten to write at a computer before they taught them anything about 61:00reading. And the idea was that they could channel what they were thinking onto the screen and they could learn to do that before having really learned how spellig works or you know reading texts or anything like that. And they say that that the students who went through that process, while they didn't learn to read when they were learning to write, you know. In other words, they gave up starting out with reading, but when they got a year later, they were beyond where the students who had, you know. So in other words, they had caught up and they surpassed the students who had learned the other way. Now the problem is that um there's a lot of difference from um reading a story on the computer and reading it on a text. And most of the computers and writing people, even those who are run by IBM, i mean people who are doing research through IBM never 62:00considered the effect of fonts on reading ability on the screen. And there's there's year, there's research all the way back to the early 1900s that ATT did, Bell labs did, trying to figure out what's the best color for the yellow pages, which were not yellow at that time, you know what effects people, that they discovered things like serifs are important and that the density of the ink is important and that color and background is important and certain colors make it more difficult to read, but also certain colors of ink on certain colors of paper are harder to read than other combinations. They did all that kind of research and they discovered that the quality of the letters affects how quickly you can read it and not only that but how much you can comprehend from what you, so for example if you're teaching reading on a computer, then you should have a very high quality screen with very well rendered fonts and things like that. Or you're not going to get as good of an effect as if they were reading on a book 63:00and you need to think about what color the background is and the lighting and all sorts of things. There's research, like not in English. All sorts of other areas.
CB: I just heard a study that was reported on NPR about a new font that came outthat's supposed to be used for studying and memorization. And it was actually the letters are missing parts of of the letters. And apparently your brain adds in the pieces of the letters and it cause you to remember more--
RR: There's a certain level of where you can go and when I was taking a psycholinguistics, John Robinson was the professor in that class. That's all we did. We read these journal articles from psychology and they had these, scope experiments where you've got your eyes in the little screen and the letters are coming by quickly and you have to identify them. They found that there were 64:00certain levels where you could remove pixels or at that time it was actually dots from the negative, but you could remove them and they could still read them and there was a certain level where their reading speed declined and there was another level where it just there was no comprehension at all, but if they had serifs then that level was further away, so in other words the serifs which we were always thought were like decoration, are important to being able to read well. So a lot of people have a lot of trouble reading a sans serif text because it doesn't have all of the clues that you would expect on the letter and some of them can be very small. So it there's a lot you can take away from a letter. I have paragraph up on my door in my office and it's, it's got all these letters switched around and everything you know and I have people read it you know and I 65:00give it out to my students and ask them to read it and they do. And they don't notice the errors you know. They may notice them after awhile, but they can read it without having to know what they're--
CB: I think I've seen words and sentences like that. Um we should probablyfinish up. Let me see... um you talked about the language center, what was it called? the language lab?
RR: The language lab. it was for the languages they were teaching when I startedat UofL in 74 if you were a chemistry major you had to have 18 hours of German. And there was I think a 15 hour foreign language requirement for every other major. So they had a language lab because in Kentucky, I mean if you were from Louisville, you had it, you know, most schools offered foreign language, if you 66:00were out in the state and you were in a populated area, you might have Spanish, two years later you would have had Latin if you were going to go to college, but they ended Latin in about 1970 in Kentucky as a as something the state would let local school boards pay for. Uh so they only had Spanish and maybe french. More spanish than french. And um that meant that students coming here who had to meet that foreign language requirement, which was pretty stiff, it was almost designed so that if you had it in high school you would still have to take more, you know to be able to pass it. They had to have some kind of tutoring center for that, but what they also had there were these magazines from Spain and Italy and France, you know popular magazines from Europe. I don't think they supported any Asian languages at that time. 67:00
CB: Were there any other tutoring centers that had any interaction with thewriting center? or other?
RR: No there wasn't, but when I was a freshman in 1974 the Black Student Union ithink is what they called themselves, they had a tutoring program. And I I had a, Cal Salvels was the name of a lab technician in the Chemistry Department. He was, I guess he was in his 30s at that time, I think he had his masters, he may have been working on his PhD, But he was a great researcher. He tutored for them and they had tutors in math and other areas. But I don't think there was, I don't think there was any officially supported tutoring program because that's where they would, you know teachers would send you or if you went to the Arts and Science Deans' office and said "I need help on this subject," they would send you to the um I think it was called the Black Students Union.
CB: So it wasn't just for Black students? They tutored everyone?
RR: No, but it. They tutored everyone. They did and they were good tutors, um68:00that building was located next door to what is now Johnny Unitas Tower. There was, I don't think, I'm sure that building's been gone for a long time. I think the Education school is there now. So right next to the Tower, so there was a Yellow Stone Building and it was 2-3 story building. There were a lot of those little buildings on campus at that time, but that was the only tutoring. Now I don't know um you know it's it's very possible that Math may have had something, but I know when I was editor of the newspaper that I had to help, so it's possible that the writing center, that the writing clinic only helped people in remedial courses, then all the way through. Because I remember helping some of 69:00the junior, not junior, I mean the first year of reporters with some of their writing. You know it was kind of a situation, when I was a freshman I needed help in Chemistry and we had a study group, so I went to that study group and there were two people there who were working on an English paper instead of doing their Chemistry work, and I needed the Chemistry work, so I sat down with them and talked with them about, well here's what you need to do here, and this was, because writing's always. Writing's been something I've did since was 5 or 6 years ago, it's like reading, pick up a cereal box and read it not realize I'm doing it type of thing. I call myself a compulsive reader. Some people you know that's good I mean if you want to be a writing teacher, it probably helps. But you know I know they didn't have anywhere else to go. I think that was how most of the tutoring at UofL up until maybe 77 or so was handled, it was by what we would consider maybe peer groups getting together, study groups kind of things, 70:00
CB: nothing formal
RR: Nothing formal, but like I said the Black Student Union did have tutors youcould set up appointments with, you could set up the tutoring, you could go in and find one and you could set up a time to meet with them
CB: Do you think that was probably for people who weren't doing well in their classes?
RR: I think it was. They... they would tutor specific subjects. I think theyreceived some pay, but I think they also were people who cared to do it. I don't think they did it entirely for free, but I doubt that they were really paid that much for what they were doing. And I don't know how many subjects they were covering.
(interruption from BW)
CB: I think that's pretty much all my questions though. Thank you. This was71:00really interesting. It makes me want to look in the UofL archives and see if there's anything I can dig up there, so.
RR: there might be some things. I'm sure somebody kept that material, but againif you get to talk to Hepsibah Rothgelly. Dottie Broadus, she's back in Louisville too. Wanda Martin lives out in Los Angeles now, but they would know. If you would like I mean if you give me your card, I can contact Wanda and see if she would like to talk to you.
RR: because I do, I don't hear much from Hepsie but I know you said you had seen Kate.
CB: I think Bronwyn has her information
RR: I can also find out about Hepsie because I'm pretty sure she said she hadcome back to town. And there's Pam Miller is someone else, that's a different 72:00Miller. She um, she worked here for a long time and then she taught at JCC for many years, she may still be around, she knows a lot about the center too. Well it's been good to talk to you,.
CB: Thank you.