When Center Catches in the Classroom (And Classroom in the Center): The First-Year Writing Tutorial and the Writing Program
MetadataShow full item record
In the first issue of College English from 1939, the editors reference a letter written by Davida McCaslin to the President and Dean of Millikin University and published earlier that same year in the Journal of Higher Education. From her perspective as the Head of the Department of English, McCaslin describes the “ideal teacher of English”; her list covers even his romantic life and leisurely pursuits. Eventually, she arrives at a single trait symptomatic of the rest but significant enough to name: “contagiousness.” McCaslin’s teacher “will be able to project himself in all the richness and variety of his interests and of his wisdom and of his nature; and will at the same time be able to do something more, something that does not produce imitation but sets up many kinds of activities with people around him” (319). I begin with McCaslin’s ideal not solely because of its charm, but also because it speaks to the centrifugal potential of courseembedded tutoring models for first-year writing classes when these models are designed to work with composition teacher training. Integral to the success of such models is a force akin to McCaslin’s “contagiousness,” a pedagogically resonant transanimation born of the course-specific experiences shared within and shaped by the student-tutorinstructor nexus. Importantly, though, the infectious character of these mutually informing points of contact should not aspire to instructional homogeneity or encourage a drag-and-drop approach to the teaching of writing. Rather, this infectiousness must be directed toward the cultivation of fluid and adaptive pedagogies attentive to the individual needs of firstyear writers. (Think “contagious” less in terms of a zombie apocalypse and more in terms of the laughter that spreads through a room on the heels of a kairotic quip). When approached in this way, courseembedded tutorials become rich sites capable of productively informing the everyday practices of firstyear writing programs from the center out.