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  • Jonathan Scott

Better Writers, Not Just Better Writing

When I first heard about the MC Writing Center, I assumed I didn’t need to go. The writing center was a place where people went to get help on papers, and I—as an English Literature major—believed myself to already be a “good writer.” Later on, I decided to work there, and in order to get the job, I took English 398 (Practicum in Writing Consulting), where I learned what the writing center was really about.

The MC Writing Center isn’t simply a place to get a paper edited, rather it is an environment where students collaborate with one another to improve as writers. As part of tutors’ training, we had the opportunity to help English 101 students with papers. We also had assignments that required us to go to the writing center. During my time in the course, I learned that the writing center’s goal is to help all students of all majors at any stage of writing.

It didn’t matter if I was already a “good” writer—there were still always going to be ways to improve, things to learn, and areas I wasn’t strong in. The writing center staff is comprised of a variety of students who specialize in different areas who want to help their fellow students succeed as writers. Their main focus is helping students develop their skill set as writers through a process of working together. That level of cooperation between students and tutors helps them both become better writers, thus producing better writing.

The writing center staff goes about this in several ways:

First of all, every student who works there has to go through the English 398 class, where they are taught how to properly help, communicate with, and care about the students who come in for tutoring. This class prepares tutors and gives them ample resources.

Second of all, the writing center itself provides a very stress-free atmosphere. The bright colors and the fun drawings on the board let students know that they are welcomed in a safe space to work on their assignments without worry or fear.

And lastly, the students and tutors are able to accomplish work through relationship building. Often there are students who meet regularly with the same tutors. Sometimes it’s to work through the different stages of a single assignment or project, while other times it’s to work on different assignments. All of these elements are what make the writing center an effective place to grow students as writers.

I’ve recently experienced this process while working with some freshmen from the Honors College. The assignment they were given was pretty challenging, and I honestly found it challenging to help them. (They had to write a paper comparing and contrasting bread in literature and chemistry!) In those meetings, we talked about ideas and research strategies, and through thinking aloud, we were able to reach a point where the students had some creative ideas to develop into a paper. The session benefited both the tutor and tutee by helping us become better thinkers and writers.

So at the end of the day, no matter where you think your writing skills are, the Mississippi College Writing Center can and will help you. They are there because they want to help you. They are constantly coming up with innovative ways to improve the quality of tutoring and writing across campus, and it’s not just so that you as a student can get a good grade on a paper (even though that will happen). It’s so that you can grow as a writer. Then, the good grades will come naturally.

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