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Relishing the Repeating Appointment February 21, 2012

As a first-time writing tutor last term, I had new experiences and new lessons to learn almost every week.  When Winter Quarter came around, I thought I was well-versed in most types of appointments but thankfully this term has afforded something completely new – a repeating appointment.  While I enjoy all of my appointments and like helping all sorts of writers, the repeating appointment is a special opportunity to get to know someone (and their writing) more in-depth.

I didn’t actually expect to get a repeating appointment; I helped this writer once, twice; after that, she made a comment that she had scheduled a few more times with me.  It was a new experience for me, hearing that someone wanted to work with me, specifically, and was evidently benefiting from my advice.  I was surprised, gratified, and excited for our next session.

Repeating appointments have their benefits, I’ve discovered.  There’s not always a lot of time for rapport in the isolated appointment, but working with the same writer more than once allows you to open up, and to let them open up.  I liked being able to ask this writer how her week was going, how she was liking her classes, and to be able to talk about my own writing experiences.  It helped to foster a level of comfort between both parties, and felt a little less formal than usual.

It’s also great to learn more about the writer’s work.  Perhaps the best part of working with the same writer repeatedly is gaining a sense of their writing style.  What I initially thought of as irregularities with this writer’s papers turned out to be repeated stylistic moves that she liked to use, or turns of phrase she thought of as useful.  This can swing both ways; if you know a writer has been doing something the same way in every paper, you can realize that it might be harder to let go of that quirk, or you can appreciate their idiosyncratic points.  Either way, familiarity helps when it comes to deciding what points to bring up and which ones to leave til next time.

Working with a repeating appointment allows you to familiarize yourself with the writer’s assignments too.  You might sometimes be working on different drafts of the same assignment, or two projects on the same topic at different sessions.  For instance, this writer wrote a thinkpiece and later an argumentative essay on the same topic, so I knew the points she had made in the earlier piece and could talk with her about how they were borne out in the later.

Not only are repeating appointments more interesting for both parties, they’re more productive.  At the first and maybe the second appointment, after the writer had read her paper aloud, she would answer my questions with “I don’t know” or “Does this sound right?”  After the first few meetings, my writer came in with questions of her own. Now, she comes in knowing which parts don’t sound quite right, what evidence she wants to check against my opinions, and what makes a stronger conclusion; we can skip talking about what doesn’t work and go right to how to improve it.  In a way, the writer has adapted to the Writing Center format, and has figured out how to make the best use of our time together.

The repeating appointment allows me to feel more involved in a particular writer’s progress, and improve my own tutoring skills with a known quantity, as it were.  The arrangement is highly instructive for me, and I certainly hope it’s been useful to the writer.


One Response to “Relishing the Repeating Appointment”

  1. lauridietz Says:

    Hi, Mallory! I agree with you that standing appointments with the same writer can be really rewarding for all involved. I have had two great standing appointments this term and have enjoyed seeing their projects develop over time. Writing is usually time and labor intensive, and as tutors and writers we can only accomplish so much in an hour.

    The topic of standing appointments also points to another debate within writing center communities: Given that resources are finite, is it better to have more members of a community visiting a writing center one time or a smaller cohort visiting multiple times?

    People with standing appointments exhibit the ongoing writing practices that we advocate for all writers–regular visits can be evidence that writing center tutors are helping to make better writers.

    However, writers with standing appointments, especially during the peak times of a term, are taking up spots that others could take advantage of.

    This tensions can become complicated and politically charged when writing centers report data to upper administration. What would they say if you have an increase in appointments but a decrease in the number of writers using the writing center?

    I’m interested to hear how other writing centers and institutions value standing appointments. And, for our staff at DePaul, how do you think we should prioritize appointments? Right now, I’d say we are agnostic–first come, first serve. Is that how we should move forward?

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