Meet Writing Center Tutor: Helen Griffin
The Round Table met with Helen Griffin over Zoom to discuss remote tutoring, Writing Center golf, and Sonic the Hedgehog fanfiction.
Round Table: To quote Round Table sports columnists, “who the buc” are you?
Helen Griffin: I am a senior. This is my third year at the Writing Center. I am a quadruple major in Anthropology, Sociology, Classic Civilizations, and Critical Identity Studies. I generally like to think of myself as a ‘fun person.’
RT: Why do you tutor?
I like to see what other people are doing. I’ve never taken an econ or poli sci class, and I get all kinds of people with all kinds of papers.
The less selfish reason is to give back to the campus. It’s an area I think there’s a lot of need for in our college community. Everyone has to write papers and everyone has assignments to do.
RT: What is the best part about working at the Writing Center?
HG: Demystifying the idea of schoolwork. Coming out of high school there was a really strong vibe that schoolwork is the end all be all.
Now that I’ve been in school for 17,000 years I can show that it’s not some big spooky determinant of your life and your forever skill level. You can write a good outline and there’s nothing spooky about that. You can look at grammar and there’s nothing spooky about that.
RT: What does the Writing Center appointment process look like?
HG: You can just type in “Beloit College Writing Center.” It’ll come up and there’ll be a link where you select a time that works for you and put in a little bit of information about what you need help on.
The difference is that now, as opposed to coming into the physical Writing Center, about ten minutes before your appointment time the tutee will be receiving an invite to their email with a link to a Google Meet room.
All our appointments are remote now. If you’re working on something a little meatier, your tutor might ask if you can share it with them via Google so you can be looking at the same thing. I’ve worked with people and it’s been really short, so we just talk through it. It’s been a shift, but one that’s been working relatively well.
RT: What is one thing students should know before their appointment?
HG: We are not spell check. We are not somewhere you can just make an appointment and drop off your work.
It is a collaborative process. Even if you truly just need things like grammar corrections, we’re going to walk you through why we are suggesting the edits that we are suggesting. Hopefully the tutee can learn and won’t have to come back for the same issues.
RT: Are there any other changes to the Writing Center this semester that students should know about?
HG: Now that we’ve gone remote we’ve created a Writing Center outreach team. It’s a small team of tutors who are working to spread the knowledge to other students that the Writing Center is an option.
We’re working on getting an Instagram up and running and we’re going to be making some more posts on the Beloit student Facebook as well as getting a weekly newsletter out and collaborations like this with The Round Table.
RT: You orchestrated the first Writing Center tutor golf in Beloit College history.
HG: I did, and I was elected President of the Writing Center Party Planning Committee.
If you go to the Beloit College Writing Center website, there’s a photo of three tutors sitting in the bathtub. I was talking to some of the people I went through the tutor class with–because we have to take a class in order to learn how to be tutors–and we were talking about how we all wanted to have fun like that. We all wanted to get to know each other, so every semester the Writing Center has a small little social event just for the tutors.
It’s nice because there have been times when someone is looking at the Writing Center and wants to go but needs help with a specific area. I’ve been able to say I don’t really have that skill set, but my friend works these hours and I’m sure they would love to help you.
RT: What was your most memorable tutoring session?
HG: I was working a 7 p.m. session at the end of a long week.
Someone showed up for a walk-in appointment, which normally we don’t encourage. We really try to request that people make an appointment online so that we don’t get double bookings, but when we were in person if someone were to just happen to show up and we were available to take them, we would.
It was like half way through my hour and this person walked through the door. We sit down, I offer them coffee, and they say, “So this isn’t for a class, but I was writing some fanfiction and I was wondering if you could take a look at it.”
They pulled it up and it was Sonic the Hedgehog fanfiction. It was very lewd, the blue one and the pink one in graphic detail. I just had to read it and work with them on the structural elements about when certain things should be happening and how to make that flow coherently.
RT: What is your favorite Chuck Lewis moment?
HG: He is the most fun person to have as a boss. He keeps us on task. He is not easy-going by any stretch of the imagination, but there have been really fun times.
We have an email thread asking people to cover for us and when Chuck Lewis wants to give input and let us know he’s with us, it results in a lot of “got it” and “thank you.” My favorite is when I got an email at 6 a.m. from Chuck Lewis and it was just the smiling cowboy emoji and nothing else.
RT: Do you have a favorite writing craft tip?
HG: I really like the program Zitaro. It’s not necessarily for writing but for citing sources. Beloit College had a workshop on it through the library that they did on it a few years ago and it stuck with me. It’s on the level of EasyBib but more accurate and it covers a lot more. I have had a lot of people come to the Writing Center asking me for help citing sources and that’s always the first thing I recommend.
RT: What is the best advice a Writing Center tutor has given you?
HG: Professors have to read and grade so much, like an ungodly amount of stuff. If your paper is boring to you, it’s going to be boring to them. Try to get yourself excited about the topic and make your reading engaging. Both you and your professor will have such a better time with it.
RT: Give your best elevator pitch: why should students go to the Writing Center?
HG: Each appointment is only an hour long. At the very most it will take an hour out of your day, and the chances of it improving your writing are so high.
I have never heard a person come out of a Writing Center appointment and say it made their assignment worse. If you want a better grade on something, why not? I’ve spent an hour on my phone scrolling through Facebook. I have the time to spare.
This interview was edited for the sake of clarity and brevity.