CAPTA Connects Tutor Presentation Recap: “A Breath of Fresh Air: How Writing Center Atmospheres Create a Stronger Connection Between Tutors and Tutees”

Over the next several weeks, we will be featuring Tutor Presentation Recaps from our 2015 Conference, CAPTA Connects. This recap is by Emma Gallagher, a Senior tutor from the Herndon Writing Center.

I presented on Writing Center atmosphere at the CAPTA Connects 2015 conference. I first outlined what the atmosphere of the writing center should be. The writing center atmosphere should be comfortable, professional, and accepting. We want our tutees to know that we are there to help them. No one is too smart or not smart enough to get help. In the writing center we accept everyone with opens arms. We try to make them comfortable enough to really get into a discussion about how their work could be improved. And, of course, the tutees have to be professional at all times. We never know who in the center is paying attention to what we are doing or saying.

I then introduced the four main aspects of the writing center that contribute to the atmosphere: layout, size, resources, and extracurricular writing center activities. I discussed what a good layout should achieve, which included privacy, room for group and individual tutoring sessions, accessibility and flow. I showed several examples of layouts that a writing center could have, and discussed their positive and negative attributes, which aligned to the goals of the layout. I then spoke about other physical attributes of the center such as how at Herndon we always have music playing to make the center seem more approachable. These things all contribute to the atmosphere of the writing center because they can make the atmosphere more comfortable for the tutee. If the layout has flow and the relaxed music is playing, then the center is more likely to attract potential tutees.

Next, I talked about the size of the writing center. I remarked on both the physical size of the center and the number of tutors, saying that it is hard for one to grow without the other. I added that too big a center can lead to distractions and overwhelm a tutee, while too small a center can intimidate a tutee and prevent possible tutoring sessions. The size, if it is not managed, can lead to a negative atmosphere. Too many tutors can lead to a social atmosphere and too few tutors can lead to an oppressive and potentially seemingly judgmental atmosphere.

I then moved on to discuss what resources each writing center has to offer. In order to ensure a scholarly atmosphere, tutees must have access to books, computers, teachers, and, of course, tutors. Finally, I approached writing center related extracurricular activities. I said that at Herndon we have a Spoken Word Poetry days and a day called “Haiku for Cake” to celebrate the National Day on Writing as well as Scrabble parties and other things to attract students to the writing center which makes it seem more approachable. I wrapped up my presentation by stating that a perfect atmosphere leads to better connections between the tutors and the tutees.

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