186 South College

grab your coffee, sit back and hang out with the UD Honors Program for a while

Round 2: Meaningful Conferences and Encouragement, By Gabriella Mangino

I couldn’t have asked for this second round of writing tutoring to go smoother! I was excited to collect my tutees’ drafts and email them about setting up conferences. This time, my conferences were divided across two weeks, which made it a little easier to fit into their schedule and mine. Most students decided to schedule their meetings with me the same day, time, and location as last round, so this was easy for me to remember.

I particularly enjoyed this round because I really got to know who my tutees were. It was wonderful to see their faces again and to talk about how their semester was going. In the beginning of all my conferences, we talked about what grade the student received on the last paper, and whether or not he or she was satisfied with this grade. Some of my tutees were disappointed, and others were just content. The first paper is always the most challenging, I told them, because there’s no way of knowing what Professor Hill exactly expects out of them. I told them that every professor has a particular expectation of each student with each paper, and by the second paper, he or she will have a designated “spot” in his or her mind for the student. “The sooner you’re able to speak with the professor –connect with him and be able to understand what he expects out of your writing –the sooner he’ll be able to characterize this spot and be able to connect with your writing.” This all may have sounded philosophical and meaningless to my tutees, but I truly believe in what I was telling them (for those who actually got what I was saying, thank you). I’ve always recognized the value in connecting with professors before it’s too late in the semester. It’s better for both parties, and especially your grade.

With this encouragement to open up the conferences, I found the remaining time to be especially useful and meaningful for both me and my tutees. I can confidently say I conducted my best conferences this round, and walked away feeling like I really helped my tutees toward becoming better writers, not just producing a better second paper. One student in particular had struggled with the last paper, and hadn’t received the grade she wanted. We delved deeply into this paper’s thesis, ripped it apart some, and closely examined the sources she was working with together. It seemed like all she needed was a fresh perspective to help her analyze what she already saw out of the sources, and a push to develop her ideas to their full extent. Another student wasn’t sure how to interpret the prompt, and ended up writing a paper that met almost none of the requirements. All he needed was some reassurance and reaffirmation of what the paper was asking, and together we worked to craft a thesis off of the ideas he already had written. It turned out a potential thesis was hidden within one of his jumbled paragraphs, and I know I helped him envision how it could apply to the works of photojournalism he still had to analyze. These in-depth interactions between my tutees and I made the half hour block of time seem like 5 minutes. Again, I encouraged my tutees to send me that second draft to look over one last time, and I did receive a few.

The most difficult aspect of this tutoring process so far occurred in this round, where I had to convince some students to stay positive about the professor and the class. Some students were developing a “bad taste in their mouth,” based off their previous paper’s grade and the length, detail, and somewhat obscure aspects of this new paper’s prompt (like the last one, they said). I knew it was my job to encourage them to stay positive through the rest of the semester and connect with the professor in every way possible. Whatever questions he or she has about the prompt and their writing shouldn’t go unasked, I told them, and they definitely shouldn’t label the class as “boring” or “annoying” going forward. They could, however, continue to label it challenging, and strive to overcome the challenges so there’s something to be proud of at the end of the semester. I loved taking challenging courses throughout my college career, I told them, because there is always something to be learned and appreciated at the end. I think my words were encouraging enough to my tutees that they left our conferences outwardly confident, and even happier.

I am saddened by the fact I only have one round of tutoring left. This will be for their lengthier research papers, the prompt for which I don’t have yet. I am excited to tutor this round, though, because it seems like these students are yearning for a little more room (word count) and freedom (a more loosely-interpreted prompt) in their writing. For this final paper, I will be sure to discuss to the prompt with Professor Hill directly to ensure I can help his students achieve all his expectations. I’ve heard mixed feedback about his written comments in terms of the language, concision, and depth of analysis he is looking for, and I want to make sure they nail this for their final, most weighted paper.

Check back for another post to round out my semester of tutoring!

Round 1 Reflections: Pushing the Thesis, by Gabriella Mangino

Boy, was this a busy week! I’m happy and feeling satisfied having completed my first round of tutoring papers for Jason Hill’s course “After Photojournalism?” This first paper (“dispatch”) called to evaluate the effectiveness of the photos in a particular photojournalistic essay in a 1950s LIFE Magazine (pretty interesting!). I truly felt like a UD professor working one-on-one with my tutees’ papers, helping them further develop their ideas and cite their sources correctly.

So, how am I as a tutor? So far, I’ve noticed I’m a huge fan of “pushing the thesis” just a little bit more. I encouraged almost every student to challenge their ideas and develop them to the full extent. I’m not as much as a grammar-freak as I thought I would be; I found myself paying closer attention to diction and sentence flow than punctuation. I like the openness and casual environment I’ve been able to establish with my tutees the most. I remember being so shy and awkward with my Writing Fellow freshman year, and I’m so glad to see my tutees are as outgoing as I’ve sworn myself to be in this situation. No awkward silences, and no uncomfortable introductory conversations.

This first round was a learning experience for me, of course, in how exactly to interpret the prompt and best guide my tutees toward fulfilling it. For example, Professor Hill requires his students cite Chicago style, and brilliant me had no idea what this meant. So accustomed to MLA, I was at a loss of how to tell my tutees how to cite that way. I directed them to use Purdue Owl (“Yes, it is spelled like the chicken,” I told them), which is an online resource that can tell you everything and anything about citing. I wanted to be absolutely sure they followed this specific requirement on the prompt, and that they used the best source possible, not me, to do so. There were specific “tasks” to complete on the prompt, like utilizing an outside source, editorial, and advertisement that supported the analysis and arguments about the photojournalistic essay. I made absolutely sure each student’s dispatch contained this. Some students particularly struggled with thesis formation –as most students, including myself, do –and then specifically citing evidence to push it. I suggested ways to do this and stressed its importance, and my tutees were very receptive to this. I always closed my conferences by telling my them to feel free to send me a second draft (“This is something I enjoy doing, don’t worry”).

Round one: complete. I was scared initially, but that feeling went away mid-way through my first conference. By the time it was over, my brain was smiling and saying “I can do this, I got this. I’m a writing tutor, and these guys are counting on me.” Well, I can’t wait until the next round already. I am looking forward to seeing my “little minions” write in their own voices and styles in the next paper!

Getting to Play Tutor for a Semester: My Journey as a First-Time Writing Fellow by Gabriella Mangino

Hello everyone! My name is Gabriella and I’m a senior English Professional Writing major with minors in Advertising and Journalism. The point is, I love writing –have for my entire life –and for me it has become an honest passion. The fact I’m able to say and believe that is truly awesome. Many people don’t understand the joy I get out of writing a paper, but it’s one that has led me to become an Honors Program Writing Fellow for the first time this Fall semester. I can’t tell you how excited I am to begin the process, perhaps just because I want to share my passion with the ripe minds of freshmen. But don’t think writing has always naturally to me; even English majors need writing tutors.

For upperclassmen, you know what I’m talking about when I call myself a Writing Fellow. For freshmen: no, we don’t just call ourselves that for fun – the title actually comes with a job description, and a very important one at that. It is my job as a Writing Fellow to tutor students’ papers during the drafting process and before they are submitted to the professor. I, along with one other Writing Fellow, divide the students in the class in order to achieve this efficiently all semester long. In other words, I only get to tutor half the students. We do this for the Honors English and/or Honors Colloquia courses, both of which are taken freshman year. Some professors in these courses make it mandatory for students to meet with us, others simply encourage it. Either way, it is our goal to make students better writers in any way we can. It is the students’ and our joint responsibility to set up these 30-minute conferences when our schedules align.

This past spring semester I took ENGL316: Peer Tutoring/Advanced Composition, a course taught by the Raymond Peters and offered to me upon passing the application and interview process. If you don’t know Professor Peters, you should, and take at least one of his courses by the time you graduate. The ENGL316 course trained me to become the well-informed, fully-capable Writing Fellow I now am (at least we’ll see about that); I read more literature on tutoring practices and learned more about tutoring practices than I ever thought I could, or knew existed. As a class, we read students’ papers and the comments made on them by teachers with a wide variety of feedback. We exposed ourselves to the tutoring theories and practices appropriate for many different types of students, and even tutored each other’s papers. I won’t bore you with the details of what I learned specifically, though I will mention there is a difference between directing and facilitating, and being a grammar Nazi versus actually paying attention to the content and thesis development of the paper. There are good students and bad students, and there are different ways to tutor these students, even changing my body language (imagine) to keep them interested. These are the little things I’ve kept in mind and will draw upon when I hold my first conferences.

I am writing this not to brag about the wonderful shoes I’m able to fill, but rather to bring you along in my journey as I discover what it’s like to be a tutor and work with students who are similar in age and, likely, writing ability to me. I suspect I will face challenges with some students in not knowing the most effective ways to tutor their papers or even getting in touch with them for setting up conferences. I fear I’ll become too invested in a paper or tutor it in a manner that is more directive than facilitative, which is what I’ve been taught not to do. I even fear I may not be able to meet the expectations some of my tutees have of me. What will my role be, then? Will I fail completely as a writing tutor? But what if I really rock it, after all? By the end of the semester, both you and I will know the answer to these questions.

While my journey as a Writing Fellow has not yet begun, I am in the process of scheduling my conferences now. Less students have gotten back to the introductory email I sent out a few days ago than I thought would by now, although this isn’t as discouraging as it is normal and expected. I patiently await receiving my first papers, which will bring me one step closer to holding my first real conference of many as a Writing Fellow.

Check back frequently for more posts about my tutoring experience!

#BlackLivesMatter by Heather Brody

I am the kind of person who tries to have a positive outlook on life. I like to see the good in everyone, to think that everything happens for a reason. Sometimes it is hard to keep up this attitude. Sometimes we are faced with something so terrible, that it seems impossible to stay positive. This is something that I have been struggling with these past few days.

On Monday, September 21st, the Students for the Second Amendment brought Fox News pundit Katie Pavlich to UD to speak as a Second Amendment activist. Many students were outraged that the university would allow Pavlich, who has called the Black Lives Matter movement a “violent hate group,” to speak on our campus. They felt something had to be done, that their voices needed to be heard. In no time, a flyer was created and shared on Facebook, encouraging students to join together outside Mitchell Hall, where Pavlich was speaking, for a peaceful protest.

Fast forward to around 11:00PM on Tuesday, September 22nd, when my friend noticed a Facebook status stating that someone had hung a noose on a tree outside of Mitchell Hall where the protest had been held. My friends and I gathered around our friend’s cell phone, appalled that such an act of hatred could have happened on our campus. It left a sick feeling in my stomach as I walked back to my dorm that evening. Around 12:30AM I began receiving UD Alerts and emails addressing the incident and asking for students to provide any information that may help police investigate the hate crime. I am not sure how I was able to sleep that night.

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 11.00.23 AM The next morning, Wednesday, September 23rd, I awoke to more UD Alerts and emails saying that the objects had not been nooses, but instead were the remains of lanterns that had been hung there earlier in the year. While this was somewhat relieving, I knew that the fact that they were lanterns did not matter. What mattered was the fact that students felt threatened and unsafe on this campus that evening, that they saw those decorations and believed that students had hung up nooses, that social media was flooded with insensitive, racist comments regarding the incident. These events made it clear that the amount of racism and the lack of diversity on this campus is a real issue that needs to be addressed. Acting President Nancy M. Targett seemed to agree, inviting students to join her outside Memorial Hall at 4:30PM that day for a discussion about the incident.

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 11.00.36 AM I walked to my Women & Gender Studies (WOMS) class th at morning, unsure of what to think. As I sat in my seat, waiting to discuss the readings for the day, my professor decided that instead we needed to talk about what had just happened that evening. We spent the entire 50-minute class talking about our reactions and feelings, how it had affected us and our peers, why we thought it had happened, and what we could do moving forward. Similarly, last semester, after the incidents in Ferguson occurred, my WOMS professor spent the last hour of our 3-hour long class allowing us to express our feelings about Ferguson. I have never experienced anything like it – the entire class, including the professor, was crying as students told us about how being a black student at UD feels like being an outsider, like they do not belong here. It broke my heart to hear it last semester, and it made me angry to hear it once again this semester.

Why are we allowing this to happen? Why are we sitting around doing nothing, as students feel excluded and unsafe on our campus? Why is it that the percentage of minorities at our school doesn’t even match the makeup of minorities in the state of Delaware?

Furthermore, why is it that these important conversations are only happening in my WOMS classes? This is something that that does relate, that needs to relate, to everyone, so why aren’t all of my professors providing space for conversation about these issues?

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 11.00.50 AM At 4:30PM, I walked toward Memorial Hall, amazed at how many students, faculty, and community members had come to show their support. I listened as Targett expressed how “deeply disturbed [she was] to see how this incident exposed feelings of fear in students,” and how determined she is to find a solution to the racist climate that exists for too many students on this campus. I cringed as students read tweets and Yik Yak posts saying things like “The only problem with the nooses was that they were empty.” And I cried, as students and faculty members climbed those glistening steps, in front of hundreds of people, courageously and selflessly sharing their own experiences as people of color at UD. One student described how it felt his freshman year to be the only black student in a classroom for the first time in his life, and how lonely it was to come to that realization. Another student recited a powerful poem, called “To those who don’t understand the movement,” exclaiming that he “will scream Black Lives Matter from the top of [his] lungs” until he could see real change happen. One student didn’t even need to speak for him to get his point across to me – he apologized as a great sigh came from his lips. That sigh told me everything. That sigh showed just how tiring, how draining it is for these students to walk around campus everyday, their backpacks filled with fear, with hatred, with racist comment after racist comment, feeling as though they don’t belong here. I can’t imagine how it must feel to carry such a load every single day.

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 11.01.00 AMAnd now I sit here, staring at my computer screen, wondering what I am supposed to do in the aftermath of all these events. It feels like it all happened so fast, and hit us so hard. I look at my Facebook newsfeed and see the University of Delaware as the top trending story, wondering what the nation must think of us now. I think of the students who spoke at Memorial today, wondering what they are thinking and how they are feeling. I don’t know if anything will change tomorrow, or the next day. It will probably take a long time before we see real change happening on our campus. And while these past few days have felt like one huge nightmare, I know that something positive has come from it all. These events have shown me that our campus is ready to start having these necessary conversations, that we are ready to work, however long it may take, to create a safe, welcoming environment at UD for people of all races and backgrounds. It is going to take a while to heal from these wounds that cut us so deeply, but I look forward to healing together, as a school and as a community.

Off the Grid

Living for the summer in the world’s pickpocket capital, I’m actually surprised I went two weeks without someone stealing my belongings. However, lo and behold, my final six weeks in Barcelona I was phoneless. Yes, going through Instagram withdrawal was excruciating, but thankfully I lived to tell this tale.

Honestly, the worst part about not having a phone was realizing how much I used technology as a crutch in my daily life. I always used to joke about being directionally challenged, but now I know that I literally have zero sense of direction; it’s as if I was born without one. Before leaving my apartment to meet up with friends I would study my Google Maps route and even write down turn by turn directions on a PostIt notes, but I would get lost each and every time. Coming out of the metro there are small maps with the general area posted at the exit, and I would inevitably choose the wrong direction every. single. time. Meeting up with friends proved extremely difficult, as well. Not only did I have to make sure I was on time (a nearly impossible task for me) but I also had to time the metro trips perfectly in order to make sure my journey was actually twenty five minutes, not forty five or fifty. After this experience, I learned that it’s best to pick an obscure landmark to meet at such as the giant block structure on Barceloneta Beach or Botero’s fat cat sculpture rather than just “meet ya at the metro!”

On the other hand, being disconnected from technology (aside from at work) for almost two months was actually quite nice. While strolling through the Gothic Quarter or meandering through La Boqueria fruit market I was able to fully take in my surroundings rather than worry about which Instagram filter would look best with the photo I just took. I even attended a music festival for the first time without constantly recording videos and taking pictures for my Snapchat and let me tell you, the experience was ten times better. I was able to actually sit in a cafe and write articles for my internship without the constant distraction of a buzzing iPhone. I was able to enjoy the live Spanish guitar in the park without wondering if I could connect to WiFi somehow. I was able to get acquainted with my Canon Rebel instead of relying on my phone for photographs. I was fully in the now, and that is something I don’t think I would have been able to do had I been glued to my cellphone the entire trip.

Of course I wish that someone hadn’t stolen my phone because now I need to take a sledgehammer to my piggy bank, but reflecting upon the situation, it wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened. When I get home, I’ll know that I can turn my phone off for a few hours while studying for a test, while catching up with a friend from freshman year over coffee, or during a movie night with my roommates, and I will survive. If I go for a hike through White Clay Creek or go out to the Green to catch some rays, I’ll opt to leave my phone at home. Everyone tells our generation to “unplug” a little bit, but no one really takes that suggestion seriously. Although it wasn’t necessarily my choice to go without a phone, I’ll now take that advice to heart. Give your thumbs a break and give it a try, you just might like it.

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