Lauren Cline: All right, so instead of starting out with these generalquestions, can you tell me do you have a favorite memory or one that sticks out 1:00in your mind from the Writing Center?
Hephzibah Roskelly:There are a lot of memories that stick out. I can tell youtwo things.
HR:One is that the collaboration among the instructors in the Writing Center wasone of the most important elements of how the Writing Center worked. We were in such close quarters and we had little carols where you would invite your student to come, but you were right next door to the next carol, like graduate students have their bullpen with students that come in. But, because of the nature of the 2:00instruction that it was, that is people who came in needing help rather than responding to, oftentimes responding to an assignment given by that person who was the instructor, you learned from other instructors as you were working yourself with a student. We also had a course, which you know, from reading that article. We had two courses and eventually we had three at one point.
So, when you were having a student from one of your classes who would come inEnglish 098, 099 or 100, other people who were sitting in the carol, other instructors, were themselves teaching those courses and they too would, it was inevitable that you would listen in. Sometimes there was a round table in the 3:00middle and sometimes instructors and students would gather at this table from different courses, different sections of the class and they would talk about what they were doing. I want to stress how ad hoc it was.
HR:It wasn't systematized because we didn't really know what the system shouldbe. We had Mina Shaughnessy.
HR:That's who we had and that was about it. So that feeling I think is one ofthe things I would say. The second thing is a real direct memory and that is a class that I taught, we did do some of our classes team taught.
HR:It was fun, because well it was such an intimate group that we all knew and4:00were on the same page. And I, when I became director, maybe some of this is in the article I can't remember, I had decided that ... I think this was. That I felt like one of the problems with these classes that we were teaching was that any materials that they had told us would be useful for these under prepared students, were usually very short, very oversimplified, and about themes that had to do oftentimes with urban use. I mean there was a clear, I would say, racially insensitive underpinning to some of those texts. So my thought was, let's teach a difficult text and then help students engage in it. So I remember 5:00the day that my friend Kate (Ronald) and I taught this class and we were teaching students King Lear, and I started by getting them, and I had this very quiet group of students who were united by their sense of not ever being able to succeed in English class.
So I started by saying, getting them to tell me about old sayings. And once wegot started, they couldn't stop and it was like their grandma, or their uncle, or their mom would tell them things like, "Pretty is, is pretty does and you don't miss the water until the well runs dry." And where I was getting them finally was actions speak louder than words. And so if you know what that means, then you know how to read King Lear. It's a memory that's so strong to me because all of a sudden I realized something about Writing Center instruction. If you, and you can see how different it is now, because if you have a course that prepares students to be English 101 students, you can't prepare them unless you have readings worth discussing and writing about.
HR:I know this sounds of course to you, but it did not, was not in 1985. Thatwas not what happened in writing clinics. It didn't happen like that. Now you have a tutoring system, students come to you with texts. But our problem was we had students who were so afraid to make texts.
LC:Okay, yeah. So, instead of working with writing that they had preparedalready, you worked with them in how to create writing from the first, from the get-go according to these texts that they're encountering in class.
HR:And according to other assignments that we had given them. But because as Isay it was such an intimate group, we knew of all the assignments the teachers were giving them, we knew it. And so we knew what was going on and the assignments were not as systematically do this, this, this. They were much more loose and if you saw them you'd be going, "Well that's a terrible assignment." But some of them probably were. But we were really trying to make, I think above all our aim in both of these moments I described to you, attest to the fact that our big aim with those students was that we wanted so much for them to feel comfortable in an academic setting and we knew they weren't. And so we wanted to make sure we were giving them all the little points that we could pull them in.
HR:UofL at that point was an open admissions university, just like MinaShaughnessy's City College when she writes errors and expectations. It wasn't too long into my tenure there as the director. I had worked in the Writing Center for several years of course before that. But when they began to shift and ask for a certain level of an SAT score, and that began to shift it away from open admissions. We also had a placement test that students came in, they wrote an essay sitting in class, oh, my word. We graded them, we scored them laboriously in large groups of graduate students, we scored these essays. We tried to use a model that was sensible. We had a rubric that we used. But that replaced them in the writing in one of those courses. If they could place them 101, but if they didn't they could place in 100 or 99-
LC:99 or 98.
HR:98 was added late and it was for kids who really had serious problems withjust at the word and sentence level.
LC:Okay, okay. So in that 98 class, it was mostly working with grammar then?
HR:I think it was mostly, the 98 class, I would say was working with sentence.
HR:It was working with subject verb, what logical order. Movement of one bigidea to the next. Relationship of big idea to little idea. I think that was more. There were also a lot of students who hadn't made much of transition and most of this was because they never wrote in high school. So they didn't have a clear sense of the difference between speaking and writing. And so, we did work with that. But I want to stress to you that it was so, there wasn't a lot of theory or research behind it at that point. There was beginning to be, but if you go back and look at the research you'll see that pre-1983 let's say, there's just not very much.
HR:There's Shaughnessy really.
HR:And then you get Flower and Hayes. You begin to get a few people in the early80s. But, it's not very much. And so, we were reading a lot trying to find things that would be useful. But mostly we were using our growing understanding of the composing process, thanks to Joe Comprone, who was the director of composition at UofL at that point. We were graduate students, we were learning that. We were learning rhetorical awareness and it was really thanks to people like him that we ... Then he had us read (James) Moffett and people, students write to their own language. And so we began to just draw from those ideas.
LC:Yeah, that's interesting. These classes, they are in addition to your work inthe actual Writing Center or clinic did you say?
HR:That's right. That's right.
LC:Okay. In that clinic you said you would work with students also in those classes?
LC:What about other, like how many ... How was the not attendance, but how manypeople, not a number. But from other fields, other disciplines or even other classes. Was it mostly those students or was there-
HR:I'd say there was a group. There was definitely a group of students who wouldcome from 101 classes. Their instructors would, we would invite the instructors down to the Writing Center to say, "Here's what we're doing." A lot we would invite some of those instructors come and teach, to come and be a tutor so that they could see firsthand. Then we would ask them to encourage their students to come to the Writing Center, very much as you do now. There was, I think briefly somewhere back in the time I was there, where a student would go into 101, but there'd be a designation from the placement test that he would be, I think it was 101 with clinic.
HR:It was a requirement that they come.
LC:That's interesting. So that placement what was that based on? You said you-
HR:It was based on an essay we made up.
HR:A prompt we made up. It didn't require any research. It required maybe aparagraph of reading. I wish I had an example of one of them, I don't. But it was a very short reading, not too complex. And then it would ask a question. So we were not interested in, is your thesis in the right place?
LC:Right, and the content.
HR:We were interested in the content, but we were not interested in any format.That is we were smart enough to know that your thesis did not have to be in the first paragraph. But we really looked for a progression of ideas, a student who couldn't perform more than a paragraph we knew was in trouble in one way or another. They wrote about a page. We didn't ask for any more than that. Some of them of course did write ... I mean we had reams of these essays. We used to. I know they're all gone, I'm sure. But, oh my word. And then we made up the rubric, which was the kid does this, this and this. Very much like an AP thing.
HR:And that would place them. So, in addition to that, we also posted flyers inthe, what is it called? The building that the psychology is in right here, I forgot the name of it. It's caddy corner to the Humanities building.
LC:I think it's just Life Sciences, maybe.
LC:I'm not too familiar with the campus, because I didn't go to undergrad here.
LC:I only know a few buildings here and there.
HR:Yeah, of course. Just the ones you need to go to.
LC:Just the ones that I go to, yeah.
HR:So but that building had a big lobby and bulletin boards, and we would postin that and the Life Sciences building because there would be beginning biology students and psychology students. We were trying to think who else would need social science students.
HR:And definitely history students. So, we would, and history courses weretaught in the humanities building too. We would post flyers and so there were walk-in periods every day. The kids who were in the classes, if my memory is right, they oftentimes would get first priority.
HR:But, we knew that we wanted it to be a cross curricular endeavor. But writingacross the curriculum had not come in. That was not a thing in the 80s. That only became a thing in the 90s. So there weren't big programs yet about-
HR:So in 1989 when I started my work at UNCG, writing cross curriculum had comein and it had just hit the ground. So, right in that point people began to see, "Oh, we need to have a Writing Center that draws from across the humanities, at least, and the social sciences. We need to have it so that people can come in. If we're going to have people write, we're going to tell instructors that they need to teach writing in whatever course they teach, then we better provide some help." So that happened. The result is in part what you have here. That really I think is attributed a lot to writing across curriculum movements. But that post dated our work here. But we knew enough to invite people when we had space to invite them. So we did and we would have, I'd say most of our population came from English 101 students, and from our own once we had our, for most of that time of the Writing Center, we just had 100. It was 100. But halfway along we added 99.
HR:And then we added 98, because we realized that there were some kids, and wekept those classes really small, so that we could do a lot of support one on one work, even in the class.
LC:Yes. Wonderful. Can you talk to me a little bit about your background? Howdid you get into the Writing Center work that you did and did you have any training? I know you mentioned our training, that we have a class that we take now. So, what did that training process look like, if there was one also?
HR:There wasn't any training for basic writing.
HR:There was training for TAs.
HR:No there was training just for graduate teaching assistants. When you came inyou had your training course, and that's really where we learned first about those of us who were in graduate programs. We learned first about basic writing.
LC:So that's where you learned about it?
HR:That's where I learned. But there were a group of tutors who had been withthe writing clinic from its inception who were lecturers, who were not graduate students. And who really were fine instructors. They didn't teach. They taught English 100, they didn't teach 101. Maybe they taught it every once in a while, but they were just hired lecturers. And UofL has had a history of having a lot of part time instructors. The move in the last 15 years has been to try to reduce the number of part time lecturers. It's been fraught and difficult, because what do you do if you don't have part time instruction? But UofL always relied, perhaps too heavily, on that population. So there was a small group and those people had learned, often by teaching high school. Many of them were high school teachers, or had been high school teachers. Very adept at writing instruction in the way that high school did it, which was good in a lot of ways. As the writing clinic grew and began to transfigure itself in one way or another, we had increasingly meetings among the staff.
Certainly when I was director, when Susan Helgeson was director, Kate Ronald myfriend, when she was director, we had meetings where we would offer readings and discussions of assignments that had gone well and discussions of how we might change instruction to meet the needs of our students and so on. So that was a training ground for people as well. I was a creative writer and I was right at the point of making a decision whether I was going to at that point you could get a PhD in creative writing. And I was right at the point of making a decision whether I was going to go on. I had my MA, whether I was going to go on and get a PhD in creative writing, or if I were going to go and get a PhD in academic subdiscipline. And Joe Comprone was there and I started thinking about the program and rhetoric and I just got so enthusiastic about it because it was a way that you could write and think about anything. Philosophy and novels, and anything that appealed to you as an English major was grist for the mill for rhetorician. I was just thrilled with that.
LC:Yeah, you don't have to choose one thing, because you can do anything.
HR:No. No. So, it just took me and so that's how I ended up in that area. Butthen almost from the beginning I began to talk to people who were in the writing clinic and finally somebody said, "Well come down and teach an English 100 class." And I did and I had been a high school teacher. So for me it was a very easy transition. I understood kids who were suffering from such deep anxiety about putting something on the page. I understood kids who couldn't get sentences out because they didn't understand where the sentence boundary should be. I understood it. So I just tried to apply that a little bit.
HR:So that's how I got there.
LC:Awesome. We've talked about population and the structure of the program atthat time. What was most rewarding, or most challenging about working with writers that you remember?
HR:Well, I've told you one of the most rewarding.
HR:And that always was the most rewarding thing, when you realize that you wereable to help a kid get it so that he could move on-
LC:And build on.
HR:And that it let her feel as though she had something to offer. She knew shecould give me an old saying. She knew it, and my word, and it was going to be useful. That feeling I think was something that's not of course limited to Writing Center kids, or people who drop in and you help them figure something out and they're like, "Whoa, or they can have a voice, whoa." That's not limited, that's graduate students as well. I mean, I always told my graduate students at UNCG that they were exactly like freshmen.
LC:Yeah, I believe it.
HR:With that same level of anxiety, that same feeling, "I'm going to faint. Idon't know if I can make it to the end." I know I'm telling you this, but you know that. And so they would laugh and say, "It's true." So what is my job? It's to stand and pull back the curtain and say, "Come on in. It's really okay. It's going to be just fine." And they don't really believe you. But as soon as one thing happens, then they're willing to take a step a little bit closer. So, that was the most rewarding thing.
Challenging, I think it's almost the same thing because these students came withsuch, like I told you, they were united in their conception of themselves as failures. The university really they thought, didn't really want them except for whatever money they could bring in because they were going to be a problem. People who came into the Writing Center as drop-ins or appointment people, they too oftentimes had the feeling of, and it manifested as fix this, because they knew themselves and they knew they had no way to fix it.
LC:Yeah. I like that you said fix it in consideration of it being a clinic atthat point.
LC:It's very medical, which you mentioned.
HR:It's so, it's very medical. So let's put a bandaid on this paragraph and notgo back to you. I mean, yeah. It was a silly and wrong metaphor for it. But that was the idea, fix it. And we knew that's not what we were there to do, even though it was called the clinic.
HR:But, students thought of that and they were sometimes defensive about that."Just tell me how that sentence should be, then okay." So that was a frustrating thing. But, also I think a challenging thing in the larger institutional framework, was that people didn't pay attention to the Writing Center. They didn't. We weren't in the middle of the university's library. We were in the basement of the humanities building and it was if you've been down there, you know this is where graduate students hang out. It didn't used to be. It was computers were across the hall and at that point, people were newly becoming invested in computer instruction. It was, so there was a whole bank of computers with only three or four people in there.
Then on the other side of the hall there was the Writing Center. It was dark. Itwas, we put up moving walls. So that we could create a classroom. Sometimes we'd stand on the tables and shout over the wall to one another, just for fun. And all the students would look up and say, "Are you all finished yet?" Anyway and then the other section of it was carols, and then a big round table in the middle. We were, unlike you, completely integrated into the life of the mine with the library surrounding you. We were segregated completely.
LC:Shut off in a dark-
HR:In a physical way. A very physical way. We used to believe that all writingclinics were in basements, everywhere. We told everybody that. We think all writing clinics, because they don't want to think about it. It's like hiding Mrs. Rochester in the attic. I mean, these are the people who really haven't made it yet.
LC:Just trying to find any place to put this group.
HR:Let's put this group somewhere and then we don't have to think about them.And that was true. The English department didn't really think about it. It ran in this autonomous way. They didn't really care very much, our methods of instruction. There was very little oversight, I guess I would say.
HR:That had great advantages.
HR:We could play with ideas rather than have to submit them. But it haddisadvantages in terms of funding and help and guidance. We were graduate, all of us who ran the Writing Center, we were all graduate students.
HR:Most of us were pretty far along in our programs. We were getting ready tofinish dissertations and to take jobs. I remember when one of us got a job and we'd all be sitting around the table and congratulating everybody and laughing, and the kids would come in and they would congratulate us. I mean it was ... I can't stress how intimate this community was. How much we depended on one another and how fun that was. We had the one time the department really did pay attention to us was when we had a Christmas party and a lot of the faculty would come all the way down to the basement.
LC:The English faculty?
HR:Yeah, just to see what was going on. And we would have treats and whatever.And so ... but I guess I would say that was a challenge, it presented a challenge, not being visible.
LC:The space itself presented a challenge, as well as-
HR:Just the way the university itself and the department saw the function of aWriting Center. These will be the function of the department, or the function of the help it gave in the university. Because again, we're talking this antediluvian period before all of this research came out about the role and benefits, and needs for the Writing Center you have now. Yeah, so that was a challenge.
LC:Yeah. I thought that was interesting how in this article I really like yourwhere nine year old flood stains on one wall warned the staff that water covers paper. I loved that sentence. Then others mentioned cockroaches and-
HR:Yeah cockroaches, yeah.
LC:Yeah. So they might not have all been in basements, but they weren't treatedas very valuable across the board it seems.
HR:No. We had this guy who was the janitor and so he cleaned the restrooms. Oh,gosh I wish I could remember his name. I mean he was like 600 years old. He would go in and clean the restrooms. More than once he would just come out and there would be an explosion in the bathroom. That was because he insisted on mixing ammonia and Clorox. And so he thought it was good, but it was constantly blowing up. I was like, I almost had to say it wasn't Clarence, it was something like that. But there we goes again.
LC:Well ammonia and bleach, yeah that's-
HR:Yeah that's what he was mixing. I was like oh, my gosh. Then they'd have tosend somebody down to put a new toilet in. I mean it was crazy.
HR:But they kept him. Nobody ever, as far as I know ... I do remember one time,I think it was Susan Helgeson said to him, "You know, what are you doing?" That's how we found out. "What are you doing? What are you using as your cleaner?" And there he just showed me, "Well you know." And Susan said, "Are you putting those together?" He'd go, "Yeah, it cleans even better." And I was like, "No." That's what she said, "You know you might want to think about just separating those, not putting those in the same place when you pour it in. Don't pour both of them." But he still did it, because he still thought it was good, and it didn't blow up every time and it never hurt him, and sometimes it just blew up a little. Isn't that funny?
LC:Like, "Oh, there he goes again."
HR:But he said he was there the whole time. As far as I know, he's probablystill there. Anyway.
LC:Oh, my goodness.
HR:So there was a lot of fun. We played games, we did skits. We'd have the kidssometimes from the class read their papers aloud and it was in such an intimate little space that they didn't feel bad.
LC:Yeah. What kinds of issues did your students or writers ask about most oftenin regard to writing? What was the most elusive thing everyone was trying to understand?
HR:They all thought that writing equaled grammar.
HR:So for them, the most troubling thing, the thing they thought they didn'thave a handle on, was how to spell, how to punctuate, how to use quotations. Where to indent, how to start a new paragraph. Even that they didn't really think. It was more the very mechanical errors that they thought was the problem. Well you can see why, because in high school that's the way they had been corrected. That was one of the first things we did, was we banned the use of red pens. That was because they had such a disposition again them, because if they saw you even make a note at the end, even if it was positive, they always saw the red and they thought it had to do with the grammar.
LC:So and so marked it up.
HR:Yeah, it was the grammar of it, when really their problems were not that.Well some of them were, and if they had ... I mean you know enough to know that all this research that has been done, it's the variety of mechanical problems that suggest that there are real problems with the student's ability to think through an idea if there are many kinds of mechanical problems. Students who are foreign students, who are ESL or EFL students, these are students who were never the problem, even though they always thought they were. We had an increasing contention of students who were from other countries, especially at that point in Middle Eastern countries. But their problems were not that. But none of them really had that as their major problem, but they all thought it. When you'd have students come in to be helped from another class, that's what they meant when they said, "Fix it."
HR:What we had to disabuse them of was first that, and secondly then where isthe problem? So the problem really was that they ... I mean this is what I think. They did not believe they had anything to offer the text. They didn't believe they had anything to say that anybody would want to hear about. And in fact, they didn't know how ... if they were going to respond into a reading, they didn't know how to enter a text in order to have something to say about it. So they defended against the text saying, "I can't do that. It's too hard." Which is why I loved my experiment with King Lear.
LC:Because most people are so afraid, or daunted by Shakespeare.
HR:Especially this group.
LC:Yes, who had been on the periphery of their high school instructor's mindjust pass them, they'll be someone else's problem.
HR:Just pass them and let's give them this third grade book to read.
HR:So what we tried then was we did a whole round, that's the days of sentencecombining. So they would have little tiny short sentences we would teach how to combine sentences and wow, lo and behold you have this lovely cumulative sentence and how does that, this lovely cumulative sentence, help you move to the next sentence, because it does if you have a series of short, often seemingly unrelated sentences. That's a characteristics of a lot of basic writers and it's not because they don't think in complex ideas, it's because they're afraid of the punctuation.
HR:So if you help them see how one idea can link to the other, and by the way,there's a comma you put there. And by the way here's a really great subordinating word, look I used the word subordination. You thought you didn't know how to do it, look at that. And then all of a sudden they've got these three unrelated sentences, and now they make sense. Then, they see they've got an idea that can take them to the next sentence. So that's what we tried. That was what our move was and once we did that, then we went back and looked at, "Now see, look where this comma went." So that we were trying to build that along with it.
HR:And we hoped that by the time they finished the course, or they finishedtheir sessions with us, that they understood that they had lots of capabilities, that knowing not to be daunted by the fact that they were writing them down was a way to deal with the idea of fixing it. Now, we did do some direct instruction. If students said, "Will you please teach me how to use a semicolon?" They never said that, but let's say they did. If they said that, we would say, "Okay, let's just give me a sentence. Give me two." Then we tried to make them be a part of creating the sentences that they would use to correct. Anyway, again, it was not I would say completely thought out. We were operating just by the seat of our pants.
LC:Just doing your best, yeah.
HR:But as we read more and more, and more and more began to come out, you havementioned Moffett and Smitherman and Shaughnessy who was our Bible. There people as we began to read more and more, we began to understand how to do better. The one thing I think that we did, but not as consciously as I think we might of, is the link. We did do it, but I think back on it and I think we could have done more with making overt links to reading. I mean that was my dissertation and I have always been a believer that the problem with the writing project model, the Bay Area Writing Project Model that began in the 70s, where teachers would go and they would learn writing through their own writing. Then they would take that back to their classrooms. This is a very famous model and it has been imported all across the United States over the last 30 years, 40 years. I always have thought that the limitation of it was that it didn't integrate reading. It just assumed reading. I have thought that Writing Centers need to have an arm that would be reading centers.
LC:Yeah, absolutely. Work with reading comprehension because you can't writeabout something that you don't understand and know how to approach.
HR:But we assume that people who come in here, already know how to read.
HR:Reading instruction is just, even in middle school, reading is seen as if youhave to have a reading teacher, it's because you need remediation.
HR:When the truth is that reading is so situational and it's so connected towriting in so many ways, and not just through comprehension but with style, with voice, with understanding. I mean you learn how to punctuate by reading and I don't think we've done, still in our enlightened day, I don't think we've done very well with that.
LC:Yeah, absolutely. I know here we ... Well, Bronwyn encourages us to help withreading comprehension and stuff like that. It doesn't have to be something you are writing necessarily. It can be writing that you're trying to understand or something like that. So, that's interesting that you bring that up, because I just thought it was a part of it.
HR:Yeah, I think everybody does. It's just like the writing project model, whichassumed that reading just came along with it. But I'd like to see in the Writing Center, tutoring and bring David Copperfield with you if you're reading that in your Victorian Lit class and having a hard time.
HR:Let's talk about it.
LC:I like that. I tend to sway more towards the literature side of English anyways.
HR:What are do you love?
LC:I love Shakespeare and Milton, but I also love the Romantics and theVictorians. So I am very torn, and I can't decide. But I really like the idea of teaching writing and accompanying literature as well, and it doesn't have to be some classic. It can be-
HR:It can be anything.
HR:But the idea that reading and writing are connected and in such deep ways. Ijust think ... I mean here Bronwyn just says how difficult it is to staff even enough and I'm saying, "Well why don't you add this whole thing." But I do think that it would serve students well because they so often write in response to texts.
HR:Whether they're fiction of nonfiction, social science, history or English orwhatever they are.
LC:Or even a report of findings in biology or something.
HR:Yeah, current events, whatever. It just I think increasingly I worked with APfor many years and one of the things is true is over the course of my time there, students got better as writers and I think it's very attributable to the writing project model where high school teachers learned how to be better writing teachers. But the same thing didn't happen with reading. So what you're seeing now is students who are pretty inept at writing, but their reading level is they don't read analytically and critically, and with the engagement we'd like to see. And so they don't have much to offer when they write about text. I think it's just something that's needed, I think.
LC:Yeah, absolutely. I think the connection that you're talking about is reallyinteresting because in some of the earlier English classes that I took, you're told the interpretation, not how to interpret. You're told the professor or the teacher's interpretation and now how to create your own.
HR:And so you don't think you have anything to offer that text at all. All youhave to do it
LC:It's all been already-
HR:It's already done. So why would you even want to read the Scarlet Letter?
LC:Yeah, so that's really interesting. We have so much scholarship on writinginstruction now. Is there the same attention on reading?
HR:No. I will tell you that there are people, there's some really good stuff outthere. Some of it I've done. But, Louise Rosenblatt is an incredibly wonderful resource. She was a very early reading theorist and she continued and her very clear way of seeing the way a reading process works is so ... I mean it's mind blowing for someone who's going to instruct. So she's one and there are a lot. But that whole body of research hasn't gotten translated into the classroom or into people's instruction in nearly the same way that writing theory and writing research has gotten translated. There isn't nearly as much research looking at actual readers, for one. Even yet, even still. And there isn't as much of this take in reading theory and pulling it out. We gave so much attention to writing and it needed it when we did it. But we forgot that there is a big hole in our instruction if we didn't understand-
LC:Because we just assumed.
HR:We assumed it. We assumed it.
LC:Yeah. Yeah, that's really interesting.
HR:And the whole idea of interpretation. This whole we'd spend so much time Ithink talking about critical interpretation now, critical thinking. What is that?
LC:It's so abstract.
HR:It's reading. But it's reading. That's what it is and it is an abstract term.If you say when your critical engagement, what does that mean? It means you're reading with understanding and we don't ... you're composing ideas. So I just think there's a lot of work for you.
LC:Absolutely. It seems like it. Yeah, that is really interesting and I'lldefinitely keep that in mind going on because I really enjoy grammar and also reading.
LC:Yeah, I'm such a grammar and language nerd. But I had trouble findingsomething in the field of writing composition that was as interesting to me as I saw literature was. But I think that's a really good connection of the two, so I'll definitely keep that in mind.
LC:So, let me see if there's ... because we've talked about a lot of these inpassing. Let me just see if there's anything that I am forgetting because I know your husband is shopping.
HR:No, no. I'm going to walk home, so it's no big problem.
LC:Okay. Who were some of the administrative staff that worked with you duringyour time here?
HR:The chair of the department was Robert Miller and he was the one who wetalked to if we needed to make any changes. When we added the 099 course for example, we worked with him. I think at that point there was, but I am not positive, if there was an assistant chair of the department at that point. If so, it might have been Julie Dietrich, who's still here.
HR:But, I'm not sure. But we worked most directly with Joe Comprone, because hiswork in composition and rhetoric was most closely tied to what we were trying to do as writing teachers in the writing clinic. So he was really, if we had ideas to think through, he was the person. But I do need to stress that that was not anything systematized.
HR:There wasn't, like we didn't have biweekly meetings with him or anything. Itwas really on a need to know basis. I mean it wasn't set. So, in that way, very unlike instruction now. Very unlike university programs now because it was so loose.
HR:And I will say too, I don't know if all the people who worked in the WritingCenter at that point would say this, but certainly I think for me when I became an assistant professor, I was at UMass my first job, I was a little surprised that it wasn't ... I liked it being loose I guess is what I would say. So then when it became a little bit more buttoned up and a little bit more systematized, I was like, "Come on."
LC:Yeah, loosen up the reigns.
HR:I think that when I moved on to UNCG and I directed the composition program,I tended to try to recreate what I had known in the Writing Center for the graduate students. Not just in Writing Center work which by that time was dropping. I worked in that Writing Center, but I never directed it. But, I wanted the graduate students to have a sense that they, just like those basic writers, I wanted them to believe they could try things. That it was not me who was telling them, "You need to have this number of essay assignments. You need to have one be that." I was against that. And I think in part it was my work in the Writing Center that made me feel as though people in general, graduate students no less so than English 100 students, need to feel that they have something to offer. And so for good or ill, I trained yet another generation of people who are now teaching in universities who think that things ought to be loose.
LC:Yeah. So what was the effect of that, that you witnessed? The effect ofloosening the reigns for these graduate students? How did they flourish with that?
HR:It was predictable that some of them were so anxious that they wanted me andso I would say, "Okay here. Here's my syllabus. I wrote one. So use it, use it." And then I would say, "Why don't you make yours up, but then use mine as the model."
HR:I got to where I did that a lot. But I wanted them to always know that I want... In fact, the first semester I insisted that we use either mine or one that they used my same template and varied a little bit. Because I felt like after awhile they really did want and need-
LC:Something to go off of.
HR:That level of anxiety taken away.
HR:But then, so some people needed more than others and I think that's true ofall people in the world, including basic writers. And so, I learned as I got older that I needed to make sure I gave people enough. I had in undergraduate classes, I don't give grades until the midterm. I give them copious comments and stuff. I had students who said, "HR, I need to know how I'm doing." I said, "Are you telling me that you don't know whether you're getting a D or an A?" They would say, "Well..." No you know how you're doing. I said, "But do you want a grade?" And they'd say, "Well, yeah." I'd say, "Hand me your paper." I would just look at my comment, I'd look at it and I'd put a grade on it.
HR:If you want me to, I will. But, that thing, I mean my aim was right. I meanmy aim is I want you to take responsibility for what you've written and the truth is, you know how you're doing. You just want me to have the responsibility for giving you that grade. But I also had to realize that I needed to teach that lesson in various ways, and if a kid needed it I gave it to her.
HR:So, they never ask more than once. But, anyway I mean that idea a lot of my... I guess what I'm trying to say to you is that I guess a lot of the way that I have been throughout my whole eternity of teaching, of life, in a lot of ways was really very much shaped by the work that I did in the clinic. The ad hoc quality of it I loved and I believe in. The intimacy, the belief that students have things to say. The knowledge that they have things to say. All of those things and more, and also the way that when you're in a graduate program or an undergraduate program, you want to create a community with instructors and with the students you teach. I hope that that was a lesson that, and I think it was, that a lot of us who worked in the writing clinic took with us.
LC:I have one last bigger question. You've talked a lot about it wasn'tsystematized, it wasn't structured. Can you talk to me about what technology was available or used in the writing clinic. How did students sign up for appointments? Stuff like that. What was your system?
HR:Students did not have computers. They did not have access to online elements.So they signed up by calling us, or coming all the way down to the basement.
LC:You said walk-in hours, as well.
HR:A schedule of walk-in hours. We had the schedule that was in the regularbulletin of the courses and when we taught them. And so sometimes we had a computer, we had an old Apple. We had a wonderful Selectric typewriter and we had an old Apple, I guess it wasn't old then. Now we would say. And we would print out, we sometimes did common prompts with our English 100 students, like at midterm.
HR:Then we would evaluate them altogether in the room, all of us who weretutors. So those things we could put into the computer and print out, and we did that. But not any of the scheduling or that planning. It just was not ... we just didn't have the equipment to do that.
LC:Now, what we do for most scheduling is it is online and there's anappointment that the writer will fill out with information about the assignment and his or her concerns. So, were those just addressed at the beginning of the session if they weren't a student that you knew from one of those classes?
HR:It would be very much the same. And again, if they were 101 students, whichprimarily they were. I mean honestly the number of students who came from other disciplines was small at that point. We didn't have very many ways of advertising this.
LC:Yes, you said bulletin boards.
HR:Yeah, because we weren't taking classes with any of those faculty members orgraduate students. So we didn't really have a way to be very much outreach, and as I say we were so invisible. The department had no interest in our doing that, particularly, I don't think. So, yeah I mean usually if it were a 101 student, we would kind of have an idea of the thing that they were going for, but we would ask. Sometimes it was a very revealing conversation, even that. We didn't have them write it, we had them tell us.
HR:Because when they told us we could see. They didn't get what the assignmentwas. And then we'd say, "Do you have a copy of it?" And that way you could match what they thought they were trying to do and oftentimes there was, the issue was right there. If the student was in the course, the 100 or the 99 class, if I'm remember this correctly, they could go right to the carol where the instructor was and there would be a schedule posted on each carol. So that if I were teaching 099, they would come to my little carol and they would see my little sheet and they would sign up.
LC:Of availability and sign up for-
HR:Sometimes I would take it into the class.
HR:So that's a big difference between the Writing Center now and what it was,because we primarily operated with kids we already knew.
LC:Yeah, yeah. And also us working here now we are graduate students and also wework here. We don't teach anything at this point. We will be teaching next year, but we won't be working here next year. So at neither point do we have that-
HR:We had at UNCG I think graduate students would teach, they were required toteach in the Writing Center at least one semester, everybody. So I think the teaching load is two, one. So they would choose when they wanted their Writing Center semester. So, it could be if they chose it as their two, they would be teaching their 101 class at the same time they'd be doing the Writing Center class, but not necessarily. But they always did Writing Center and 101 in the same year, same academic year. I think the idea was that we wanted everybody to have experience. They might be working in a Writing Center when they graduated, but also that we wanted everybody to see the issues that get presented by assignments and readings and students' misunderstandings and students needs. We wanted to see at that level.
LC:Yeah. So, yeah with this structure we see these problems with assignmentsheets and problems that writers come in before we teach. So maybe that's helpful to know before we are put in it. But, yeah that's interesting.
HR:Let me ask you a question, do you ever have in the Writing Center anyopportunity to have faculty come and do workshops or anything with writing instruction or a writing across curriculum program at all? No?
LC:No. Yeah we don't have ... We have faculty come in for a session talkingabout a journal article they've written or something.
HR:But I mean for them to be instructed.
HR:Faculty member. Here's how to create good assignments, no.
HR:That's something I think has gone by the wayside. Writing across curriculumhad this flourishing and then it disappeared. But, you all in the Writing Center see it firsthand and you know where it could be so beneficial to have.
HR:Have faculty understand how they shoot themselves in the foot with it.
LC:Yeah I see some assignment sheets.
HR:Oh, yeah I know you have.
LC:But, yeah that would definitely be beneficial, at least I think so for thatto be revived. After the appointment, we have to make a client report form of our session where we talk about what we did and whatnot. So did you all have anything like that?
HR:I think at one point when I was directing I would ask the tutors, theinstructors in the Writing Center to talk about how many of their students had come. How many students they had if it weren't on the sheet. We tried to systematize the numbers who came in.
HR:And then sometimes we'd talk in our own faculty meetings about if there werethings that we saw that were in common among the students who were coming in and we would try to make notes of that. We tried to be responsive in that way. But no, we didn't have any form that anybody filled out.
HR:About what they actually did in the session. Again, this was in part becausewe weren't dealing with so many people across the university.
LC:Yeah, that makes sense.
HR:So we didn't have to report back to the instructor and say ... we did goupstairs and we'd have a little sheet and we'd put in the mailboxes and say so and so came in. In case that was part of their requirement.
LC:Yes. Yeah, so our client report forms can be emailed to the instructor ifthey give extra credit for coming to the Writing Center. It's almost like a patient chart that the doctor or something. You have a detailed description of each and every visit for every student.
HR:You might, should start calling it the clinic again.
LC:Sometimes it seems like that, but it's also problematic because we done needto fix them. We just need to-
HR:I know, of course it's problematic.
LC:I know, but it feels like that in some ways. And then others you're like,"Why am I thinking,"-
HR:No, why I have to go. And the level of that is, I mean I don't know howhelpful that is to the instructor. Do you know what I mean?
HR:It might be helpful to you in just thinking about the stuff you did.
LC:Well, yeah. You can, or you're supposed to at least, before each session readat least one or two of the client report forms from pervious sessions to see what they worked on and where they are. If you weren't the one to work with them. So you can have a little bit of knowledge going into it.
HR:Yeah, that's good.
LC:It's helpful but, well this appointment's not, or this interview's not about me.
HR:No, but I do think this is what I would say, that the delight really ofWriting Centers is that because of the way people come and go, you can't set it in stone in the way that English 1010 sometimes unfortunately gets set and you have to do this, this and this. Because there's such a various group of kids coming in here and such various instructions that they've been given and such various things that have to happen. If you're good, you're always thinking about how to remake it, so that it's expansive enough that it can work.
HR:Because once you find that you're bumping up against something that's arequirement for you or rule, you realize it's because it doesn't work. It doesn't work with the dynamic of what's going on in the class. A Writing Center is, at least certainly all those years ago, it was so ad hoc that it was nimble. So we could ugh, eek, that doesn't really work.
HR:Let's move that a little bit and see if we can. So, yeah. So it's importantto think about those things, for you. It's important to think about why am I feeling like this? Well it takes up time and it doesn't really help.
LC:So, this is just a small question. I know now we're encouraged to call orrefer to the people who come in as writers. What was the term, it's like writing consultant, writer relationship. Was it tutor and tutee, or student and tutor? What were the labels that were used for that relationship?
HR:It was seldom tutor, because those people even when they were tutoring,having people come in who they weren't in class, they were instructors too. So it was instructor usually and writer. I think we were clear that these people coming in were writers and were working to be better writers. So I'd say probably instructor, writer.
LC:Okay, awesome. Awesome.
HR:Tutee is such a terrible word.
LC:It's a horribly awkward word and it was painful just to say it.
HR:But sometimes we did. I mean, I remember this and some people were wanting tocall it tutor and tutee and we would laugh about, "Okay, how many tutees?" Two, I had two tutees.
LC:One of these questions was do you have any copies of any photos or documentsthat you might want to share, or feel comfortable sharing from your time here?
HR:If I did, I would, but I don't know that I do though. I would have before Imoved back to Louisville because I don't ever throw anything away, always thinking, "Well somehow that might be useful." But when we moved, I was like, "No you are not dragging," like all my written exams, I threw them away. Well, I mean come on, who cares about them? But it took me 20 years to throw them away.
LC:I'm so sentimental about everything.
HR:Me too, I know. My first job, all the recommendation letters I had saved. I'mlike, "No, no, no, no stop. Throw." So a lot of that early stuff I realized I'm going, "Really? No. Nobody wants to hear anything about any of that stuff." So I think a lot of that got pitched. However, in thinking about our meeting today, I did get out a couple of boxes and I thought, "I'm just going to go through this and see if there's anything that you might be interested in." And I didn't get a chance to go except the very first folder which was about something entirely different. So I will go back and look and if I have anything that seems ... I mean I wish what I'd really like is if I had a picture of that wall because we had to carry it across campus. It was this great, how tall would it have been? Like eight feet and it was in long, maybe 10 feet segments. It was orange, you know orange was really a popular color.
LC:Oh, yes. Anything bright.
HR:It was terrible looking. But they said, "Well, if you come get it, you canhave it." See that's how they did ... They didn't pay any attention to us. So it's like, "Well if you come get it, you can have it." So we said, "Okay." There were four of us who went over and it was hilarious, oh, gosh. I don't know somewhere over that way towards the music building and we carried it down the sidewalk and there were two of us on one side and two of us on the other. We were constantly running into things and I wish that I had a picture of when the wall finally got down there because then we were so happy that we had created a classroom out of this stupid wall.
LC:Yeah, orange wall.
HR:So bad. But, I hate to say-
LC:It's better than the flood stained one.
HR:Yes. It mitigated-
LC:You just got to take your joy where you can get it.
HR:We were so joyful. So, anyway but that would be fun if I had a picture ofthat whole little scene.
LC:Absolutely. Yeah I would absolutely be interested in whatever you find orthinks meaningful. Yeah, absolutely.
HR:Well, I hope this has been helpful to you.
HR:I certainly have gone on.
LC:No, it's been so helpful. Is there anything that we haven't talked about that-
HR:I think I would just say that you really got to know your fellow teachers.And for me, they became lifelong friends, a lot of them. One of the things that I think is so important for graduate students is that they see their work in a program as collaborative and not competitive.
HR:And that I got that. If there's one thing I could give to graduate programs,it would be that. Because you become so much better thinker and teacher.
LC:Yeah that's why I loved our Writing Center class because we were altogetherand we did work with each other, bounce ideas off of each other.
HR:That's so great.
LC:But now that we're not in that class altogether, it's just a couple of us inwith second year master's students, or PhD students. It's not that-
HR:It doesn't have that feeling anymore.
LC:It's competitive rather than-
HR:And the Writing Center because of all the things I've talked to you about, itreinforced how true it is that you do better in community. And so, when you started teaching, and when you start teaching, your lit classes and your rhetoric or whatever you're teaching, remember that when you get your kids there, you got to find the way to create the community. If you can do that, you are halfway there. I promise you, and it's a little hard to do. But not wicked hard. I mean it's not like ... If you just play a little bit, you can get that community. And once you've got it, I mean the kids relax, adjust. They'll do anything. They'll try anything because they feel-
LC:Yeah they feel valued. They feel like they can contribute.
HR:And they like each other. I mean, I'm such a believer in small groups and Ialways put my kids in their permanent groups. I say to them, "I know that you all care," when they share writing, "I know you all care far more about what one another thinks than you care what I think." That's the way it should be.
LC:Yeah, absolutely. That's really encouraging.
HR:It's something, it's like such a little simple thing. But as a graduatestudent, there's a way in which you feel lonely at points because it doesn't feel like a community sometimes. It doesn't feel like that and if you can use whatever experience you have to gather that since of community, it'll make you a great teacher.
LC:That's really encouraging. I never saw myself as a teacher. I always saidthat's the last thing I would want to do. So now that I am approached with it, it's looming on the horizon. I'm very anxious about-
HR:Of course you are. Of course.
LC:... being able to get what's in my head out in a way that's helpful.
HR:Listen to what's in their heads.
HR:It's going to be fine.
LC:Yes, but that is definitely, it takes off a lot of the pressure.
LC:So I will remember that.
HR:Don't forget it, because you'll do great. You just have to ... there's somuch to share and so much to listen to. And as a Writing Center tutor, you know it teaches you more than any other class can, that you need to listen.
HR:Because it's there and it's a wonderful experience for you going in theclassroom. Good luck.
LC:Oh, thank you so much.
HR:I hope it works.
HR:It will. It will.
LC:Thank you so much. I really enjoyed talking to you.
HR:Oh, I enjoyed talking to you too.
LC:It was really nice to meet you too.
HR:How nice to get to meet you and hear all about what's going on.
HR:Yeah, I'm always interested in it and even though I still do some work withAP teachers here in Louisville, and actually I'm going to the AP room...