Inside the Center: Perspectives from the Santa Fe Writing Center Crew

May 14th, 2014 | By | Category: Spring 2014

Photos and Testimonials from Santa Fe Writing Center Writing Mentors

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Chyanne Quintana, San Juan/Santa Clara Pueblo, Sophomore

The writing center was a very joyful experience for both me and the clients I helped. It was an experience that helped many of the students become better writers These skills were improved by having students understand what they would like to change in their own writing. While helping clients, I found that it helped me better understand how I wanted to improve my writing as well. As I began working in the writing center I applied all I had learned to my personal writing. I would often ask myself if what I had written related to the prompt and I believe that it helped me become a stronger writer. Although we have not had a large number of clients, I believe that every tutor has gained an immense amount of knowledge.

The way in which we help our clients is informative, yet we don’t, “write their papers for them.” The system by which we help clients, I believe, is very productive. We do so in a way that allows for the student to decide how they want to change what they have written. I quite enjoy the way this system plays out because it shows the students that they have great ideas that  no one can maybe ‘put down’. The tutoring environment is very friendly. I’ve never heard an instance when a tutor put down a student’s work, and I believe that is an important concept to have in a writing center. This is important because a writer wants to feel comfortable while letting his thoughts flow onto a sheet of paper.

Janaya Tafoya, Santa Clara/ Hopi, Senior

For me the writing center is about finding yourself through challenges and overcoming personal fears. I never expected to be part of such a creative and bright group of people. When I was asked if I was interested in joining I thought to myself, Me? I can’t do that. Surprisingly, I took a chance. I showed up for my first meeting and felt out of place. I didn’t see my writing as good; to me it was average work, and I definitely couldn’t see myself helping my peers with their writing.  However, after getting familiar with what to do I became comfortable.

Every time I helped one of my peers I learned something new, whether it was a definition, the spelling of a word, or a new outlook on a topic. Now when I write my own essays or journals I see how much my writing has changed and grown from what I knew to be average work to something that seems inspirational and meaningful. Over time I became confident in my writing and myself.  I am thankful to be able to work with the writing center and help my peers strengthen their writing skills while growing my own. It has been a good experience and one I will surely miss after graduation.

Daylon Deutsawe, Jemez/Laguna Pueblo, Sophomore

I remember when the opportunity came to join the writing center. I was hesitant because I didn’t really know what to expect and I didn’t really know if I wanted to give my time to anything at the moment. Aside from my hesitation I gave in because I thought I probably wouldn’t be doing anything worthwhile unless I joined some cool cat club or something. So I decided to lend my time to the Writing Center.  As I spent time with the program I found that I was beginning  to enjoy the work and the company of the other members. The members of the writing center are pretty easygoing which makes the work we do seem less like a job. Even then, our work is still enjoyable just because of the positive sensation we get from helping a fellow student. Writing is a type of communication and our job is to help people voice their thoughts on paper. Also the preparation it took to be able to help people with their writing was very educational to myself. In the workshops we did I’ve learned a ton about what writing is and what it means to others.

We haven’t had many clients on our plate. I myself have only had a few. I can remember that my first experience with a client wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be. I recall there being a lot of agitation. Not between me and the client but more with me and myself. I worried to myself that I might be pointing the client in the wrong direction and that I wasn’t really helping him at all. Though the client said differently, I thought I could have done a bit better by being sure that what I was doing for the client was the absolute best for him.

As I already mentioned, the writing center was educational to me also,  and the truth is that I’m still learning. I feel that with more experience I will be where I want to be as far as helping people with their writing. I definitely plan to continue my work with the Writing Center because I really do appreciate the work and the goals that the program wishes to achieve. My experience with the Writing Center comes with no regret for me. I am excited to see where the program goes.

Johnny Sanchez, Ohkay Owingeh, Senior

My experience with the SFIS writing center has definitely been a positive one. From learning how I can improve my own writing to helping others find a voice that is uniquely their own, I have been a part of many fun and enjoyable things in this first year of the SFIS writing center. Everytime I find myself talking over a difficult article, the vaguest passage in a novel, or the nuances of a specific word in a century old poem, I feel as if I am learning just as much as the person I am tutoring. My favorite part of the experience has been all the times that the person I am helping actually starts to explain their topic, effectively becoming the expert while I just stand in the background and help make sure they don’t get off track in their exuberance. The hardest part has been coming to terms with the idea that it is not my writing that I should be pushing on the person sitting across the table, but that it is their writing that I am trying to help them express in a way that is both meaningful and effective.

Even though we have not exactly had our door beaten down with huge amounts of clients, I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the people who have taken the initiative to improve their writing. I have worked with students who may not be the most eloquent or the most passionate writers and I have worked with extremely talented writers, but all of them — as I have seen time after time — have interesting and important thoughts. They are all capable of using their intellects and imagination, but sometimes fall short in the actual act of writing. This is where I have, happily, done my best to help them along. I am also happy with how much about my own style of writing, and writing in general, I have learned.

Shayna Naranjo, Santa Clara Pueblo/Ohkay Owingeh, Sophomore

It was not my passion, talent, or “great” writing skills that prompted me to become a peer tutor at the Writing Center. I wasn’t passionate about writing; I didn’t think I was oh so gifted with words, nor did I refer to my writing ability as “great”. English was my worst subject. At the end of this first semester, as a sophomore, I was worried about whether or not I, myself, had an inevitable tendency to almost just pass the class. The hopefulness of enhancing my writing skills was, but was not the sole reason, I joined. A multitude of people had advised me that joining extra-curricular activities improve college transcripts. With those words in mind, along with hopes to advance my writing skills, the concept of a developing writing center became more appealing.

Like every day, my first period teacher read the daily bulletin; and I guess on that day I was more attentive than my usually selective hearing of what lunch would be, because I heard her read an ad explaining the developing writing center. Students from all the high school grades were needed, if interested.

A moderate amount of students answered the ad. Yet, most of them failed to fully commit to the center. Scheduling problems, maybe? Anywho, it was what I learned that kept me coming back.

In the first two weeks or so we were trained on how to instruct, and control our attitude and action toward the clients.The first Bread Loaf Conference we attended offered a chance for students and teachers of three different schools to develop better communication, and editing skills, together. As a student, I learned, firsthand, what common errors students make. Also, the struggle and effort that teachers have, to encourage students to stop simplifying their writing and produce passionate writers.

It’s far too frequent that a student will rely on a teacher’s help to answer questions, discover themes, tones, and form outlines, or whole essays rather than their own ideas. That is the cardinal goal of the Writing Center,to create a community of students that write for meaning and can rely on each other, aside from their teachers.

Becoming a peer tutor gave me the opportunity to explore a whole new world. I became the teacher, instead of the student. I witnessed passionate writers in action, thanks to the workshops. And am no longer pondering if I have an inevitable tendency to just pass my English class, because my writing skills have jumped up a couple levels. The Writing Center changed my whole perspective on writing, a change I wish to see throughout my school over the upcoming years.

Myron Tenorio Isleta/San Felipe, Senior

In my journey about coming to the writing center, I felt reluctant about joining because I thought I didn’t have the capability to help others with their own writing. I later figured teachers had always given me good comments on my writing pieces, so  why not join? I thought it could even enhance my writing skills a bit more if I could help other students understand their writing.When I joined, we learned what to do, say, and teach so that I allow the student to think for themselves about what they are writing. It was a fun process, but it could be challenging at times depending on the situation such as when defining what specific problem the student had. Or when we identify the problem how we can adjust it so both of us agree that it is the best decision to make the student’s writing paper better. When I got my first student I was a bit nervous because I wasn’t sure if i would know what problem they were having. I remember the problem for this student was uncertainty of how to start or even how to write the paper. We discussed the prompt, and minutes after she began to write her essay with no problem. We got through the first paragraph of the essay with ease. Eventually we ran out of time, and she left confident, and I myself felt confident and happy I was able to help her. With each student that I was able to help I felt more and more confident. Each time it was just a good feeling knowing I was capable of helping others. Since the writing center is still in progress, I am enjoying my time helping others. I’m glad I made the choice to join because it has taught me different lessons each time, varying with what my peer students bring every time.

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