Tutoring Writing is Performing Social Work is Coloring Hair: Writing Center Work as Activity System
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Melissa Weintraub was a social worker long before she became a peer tutor, work that she found tremendously useful as she came to understand the valuesets, special terminology, and tricks of the trade reproduced in the community of practice we call “writing center work.” As she explains in her recent article for the Writing Lab Newsletter, “There is a significant overlap in the ways in which we draw information from students, help them find their own solutions, and maintain boundaries” (10). Both positions eschew directness in favor of talk that “draw[s] in” the client, generating the emotional, physical, and intellectual space necessary for what she calls an “initial inspection of each other” before moving into the real work of the session (10). In neither position did Weintraub tell her clients what to think or do but rather pushed them to find their own answers, all the while, as she explains, “using me just for guidance” (11).