Meet Writing Center Tutor: Ian Curry
Esther Veitch sat down with fellow Writing Center tutor and outreach coordinator Ian Curry September 29 over Google Meet. Ian discussed his experience working remotely as a new tutor and navigating the writing process at large.
Esther Veitch: To quote Round Table sports columnists, “who the buc” are you?
Ian Curry: My name Ian, my pronouns are he/him, and I am a sophomore. I am a major disappointment–undecided about my college major, and this is my first year at the Writing Center.
EV: Why do you tutor?
IC: There’s two reasons. One is because I need a job.
The second one is because I actually really enjoy working with writing and trying to help other people with their writing. I get to see a bunch of stuff and information I never would have otherwise seen in fields I know nothing about. I also think looking at what other people write helps me look critically at what I write.
EV: What is the best part about working at the Writing Center?
IC: There’s a lot of things. The other tutors are cool–that’s a big upside. The people I tutor are pretty cool as well.
The hours are super flexible, which is wonderful because you can choose the shift that fits for your schedule. For example, I work super late on Tuesdays. That’s when I have time, and that’s when I can tutor.
Normally I think it would be unlimited free tea because I’m a big tea drinker. For obvious reasons I’m not sure that applies this year, which is my only experience. I have become a Google Meet tutor, which is fun, but not as much fun as I think it might be if I was meeting people in the actual Writing Center.
EV: What has the typical online Writing Center appointment looked like for you?
IC: First there’s always one or two minutes where I’m like, are they gonna join? Cause it’s Google Meet, and no one ever uses Google Meet.
Once they’re actually on the call, we talk for a few minutes about how things are going–not necessarily even with the assignment, but with being stuck inside constantly and coping with that.
From there we usually go over what class the assignment is for and what the assignment guidelines are. If they have the rubric I ask them to send it to me so I can see exactly what the prompt is.
Then I have them read through it if they feel comfortable with that, which is a little weird over Google Meet. It’s not as great as I think it normally would be. Depending on what they have and what the assignment details are, we might go line by line addressing individual things or we might take a broader look at structure issues.
EV: What is one thing students should know before their appointment?
IC: It’s not like we’re grading you. We’re not graders.
I’ve had a few students come in kind of nervous and almost ready to defend their papers. We’re on the same team.
We’re both just trying to make your paper as good as possible before you submit it. There’s no need to apologize for an error. Everyone makes a few mistakes sometimes, and it’s fun finding them.
Also, have the prompt. A lot of people don’t have the rubric ready, but it’s super helpful when we can actually see what the prompt is. I remember very specifically the first time I used the Writing Center, I read the instructions and I was like, oh crap, I have to have the prompt? I went looking through my syllabus for it and I finally found it.
EV: What has the learning curve been like as a new tutor?
IC: Full disclosure, I’ve only had three sessions. Honestly it’s just tech difficulties at this point. Two out of three appointments there’s been some sort of tech problem.
There was one where the student’s mic wasn’t working very well. I could only hear every other word, which made it really difficult to talk. We eventually started using the chat box, which was less than ideal, but we were able to get through it.
The good news is they could hear me, so I could ramble on about why this ‘a’ needed to be changed to an ‘an,’ and they could understand and give a thumbs up.
The other technical issue I had was on my end. The student couldn’t hear me until I called in on my phone because my computer’s audio was so lagged out. I got the issue fixed, but it was super frustrating because time is tutoring.
EV: You’re part of the Writing Center outreach team. Can you say a little about that?
IC: The outreach team is a collection of the coolest kids around making content promoting the Writing Center and getting it out there. The Writing Center is mentioned in some Freshman courses–they mentioned it in mine–but the awareness isn’t there.
I think we’re just trying to get people thinking throughout the day, “Damn, that Writing Center is pretty cool. I should sign up sometime.”
It’s super fun. I get to work with some audiovisual stuff I wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to work with this semester, and it’s been a blast so far.
EV: You’re in charge of the outreach Instagram, correct?
IC: Yes, we are currently waiting for approval to have an Instagram, so we’re on hiatus. We haven’t actually been posting things, but we are creating things to post once it’s active.
EV: You prepared some Instagram content about Writing Center Director Chuck Lewis. What is your favorite Chuck Lewis memory?
IC: I first had Chuck Lewis in Writing 100–that’s how I got the invitation to the Writing Center. We were working on group presentations, and Chuck left the room. Every single group organized to somehow talk about Chuck Lewis in their presentation.
I was lowkey worried about how it was going to go over. The way he took it, by laughing hard, was fantastic. I don’t know of another professor where we could have done that and left with our heads.
EV: Do you have a favorite writing craft tip?
IC: I’m sure if I was prepared I would have an Anne Lamott quote because she has so many great ones. I would be terrible at writing Buzzfeed articles because I don’t have any hacks where it’s like, “here’s how to make your writing better in one easy step.”
I guess my writing hack would be, when you sit down to write an essay, the first thing you should do is know exactly what your thesis is and exactly which claims are going to be supporting it.
This is something I have trouble with because my writing works best when it’s free-form. Sometimes I’ll go in a direction I wasn’t anticipating, but it’s a lot stronger than the direction I was planning to go a week in advance. Have a plan, but don’t be afraid to go back and revise if it makes the plan stronger.
The hardest part of an assignment is writing it. Once you get your name and title down, it’s a lot easier. I’m a terrible procrastinator. The idea of an assignment will be over my head for two or three days until I finally just sit down, type out the first paragraph, and it’ll be okay. Even if the first paragraph isn’t magical, you can come back and fix it later.
EV: What is the best advice a Writing Center tutor has given you?
IC: I forget who it was, but she said, “Look, what you’ve written is pretty good, but it doesn’t do a great job of addressing the prompt.” Sometimes you get so lost in your own writing that you go on a tangent, and then your whole essay turns into a tangent.
She was like, “You need to take some of those ideas, reign it in, and do a better job of drawing it back to the prompt itself.”
It was super helpful to hear because, after you’ve written the essay, it’s a lot harder for you to see that than for a fresh pair of eyes that just read the prompt and just read your thesis. I felt super goofy, like I wrote the wrong essay. It was a simple prompt.
The good news is that I actually went to the Writing Center more than 24 hours before it was due, so I was able to rework it. I came out with a pretty good essay and got an A for it. I was like, I’m done. I’m retiring.
EV: And now you’re a tutor.
IC: Yeah, I made it big now.
EV: Having made it big, give your best elevator pitch: why should students go to the Writing Center?
IC: Writing is difficult. A lot of the time it’s a lot easy to see an endless amount of problems in your own writing that might not necessarily be the biggest problems.
The most helpful thing is to have another pair of eyes–maybe a pair of eyes that went through a training program–to look over your writing and help you identify how you can improve it.
Also, free hot chocolate when we’re actually open.
This interview was edited for clarity and brevity.
Follow the pending Writing Center Instagram account to see future content from Ian.