Transcripts of MadelineBaker

[00:00:00.83] My name is Madeline Baker
[00:00:04.62] and I worked as a writing center consultant for three years,
[00:00:09.79] um, in my undergraduate degree at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo,
[00:00:13.24] and the story I kinda wanted to tell today is
[00:00:16.59] a little bit about how I kind of came to work at the writing center
[00:00:19.71] and like kind of what challenges or sort of lessons I learned
[00:00:23.91] in that early period of becoming a consultant.
[00:00:26.72] And so I started working there in the second year of my undergrad degree.
[00:00:32.06] And that was also the first year that I had declared an English major
[00:00:37.37] and had become an English major.
[00:00:39.12] And before that for my freshman year I was a music major,
[00:00:42.67] and, um, I was a trumpet player, jazz trumpet player,
[00:00:46.08] and so that whole first year of school I took,
[00:00:49.37] like I took two non-music classes in the whole year,
[00:00:52.50] which, those involved writing a little bit, but mostly it was like
[00:00:55.87] music theory, history, lessons, ensembles,
[00:00:58.85] like I just played the trumpet four to six hours a day, but I did not write and read.
[00:01:03.01] And I had been good at writing and reading, like in school, before,
[00:01:05.68] but it like wasn't something that I was doing.
[00:01:07.90] And so then in the spring of, um, my freshman year of college,
[00:01:13.52] I was in my one sort of elective non-music class was a women and literature course,
[00:01:20.65] and I had this really awesome professor who's become like my mentor
[00:01:25.55] and still like a friend of mine today.
[00:01:28.72] But sometime in that spring I got like a repetitive stress injury from playing too much
[00:01:33.63] and like couldn't play anymore, and so I was like,
[00:01:35.75] "Oh, you know, I've wanted to be a music major since I was ten.
[00:01:38.16] "Like, what do I do now, you know, that I can't play and I can't do this?"
[00:01:42.21] And this professor in the literature class was like,
[00:01:45.40] "Well, you're kinda good at this like, do you wanna be an English major?"
[00:01:49.17] Yeah, and she just like sat me down, I remember this day,
[00:01:51.90] she sat me down and wrote on the chalkboard all the different tracks of English studies,
[00:01:57.10] so she's like, this is like rhet comp and this is all the things people do in rhet comp
[00:02:00.35] and this is literature, and this is linguistics, and you know.
[00:02:03.32] And she laid out like the path through the undergrad major
[00:02:07.35] through the masters, the PhD, the job market, and she was like, you know,
[00:02:10.81] "This is the path people go on, these are,
[00:02:13.49] "at different points, these are the different jobs you would be qualified for if you didn't ..."
[00:02:17.22] You know, she just laid, this is how she works, but she just laid everything out
[00:02:20.97] and I value that like so much, I can't even explain how much,
[00:02:24.20] because I was like very well informed, you know, going in.
[00:02:26.91] So she was like, "Why don't you try this?"
[00:02:29.30] And I think I was like wanting, I mean I loved English, and I was like,
[00:02:32.48] "Ok, well, like that's a direction to go in. I'll do this."
[00:02:34.94] You know, and um, so that summer I applied for the job at the writing center,
[00:02:38.74] 'cause I was like this would be ... I need to earn money, I need to pay my rent,
[00:02:41.49] I want to work in doing something that's related, you know.
[00:02:45.36] And so I got the job, but I think for a while I felt like a fraud or something
[00:02:51.52] 'cause I was like, I'm not ... like, I just became an English major
[00:02:55.09] and I was like a music major,
[00:02:56.74] and what do I know, you know, about teaching people to write?
[00:02:59.24] Um, and so that was kind of what I wanted to talk about
[00:03:02.34] of like the sort of uncertainty, you know,
[00:03:05.24] or the anxiety you can feel like when you're starting being a consultant.
[00:03:10.37] But I think that the way our training worked at our writing center
[00:03:14.00] really helped me kind of get past that.
[00:03:17.49] We did, you know, staff trainings as groups, but we also did
[00:03:21.62] shadowing where we would like sit in on consultations with experienced people,
[00:03:27.13] so I could learn so much just from watching other consultants
[00:03:30.73] that are now friends of mine, like watching them work.
[00:03:33.76] But yeah, then the first time you're like on your own,
[00:03:36.82] you know, in your own consultation, it's like,
[00:03:39.34] Am I supposed to be like an authority on writing? Because I don't know if I can be.
[00:03:44.38] Like I don't know if I know enough, you know, and what do I tell this person,
[00:03:47.45] and like how do I help them?
[00:03:50.75] But I think over time I learned that
[00:03:53.63] you are not supposed to be an authority as a consultant,
[00:03:57.06] you're supposed to like kind of ask them questions
[00:03:59.44] and help them think about things in a different way,
[00:04:02.11] or maybe like point them to resources.
[00:04:04.72] So I remember going and actually getting out someone's laptop in a consultation
[00:04:08.97] and like really just helping them look for library sources, you know,
[00:04:12.14] and thinking about kind of drawing an outline and a map, and thinking about like,
[00:04:15.98] "Well, how would these sources fit into what you're trying to say here, right?"
[00:04:20.35] So I wasn't being an authority, like I wasn't telling them,
[00:04:22.69] "This is what you do," but it was more just facilitating, right,
[00:04:27.09] like helping them use resources in ways they didn't know how to before,
[00:04:31.02] and then helping them find maybe new ways of like mapping
[00:04:34.06] or thinking differently through writing that was more helpful to them than saying,
[00:04:38.96] "Oh, you should use this source or do that."
[00:04:41.60] Um, so, and it's interesting 'cause some clients want you to be an authority sometimes, right?
[00:04:48.62] When eventually I got comfortable in this role of like,
[00:04:51.15] No, I'm like a facilitator. You know, uncertainty is good.
[00:04:53.95] and then you'd meet up with clients who like wanted you to be
[00:04:56.64] "But what's the answer, but how do you rewrite this?"
[00:04:59.93] Right? And I had this one client who was a doctoral student
[00:05:04.96] in mechanical engineering from Japan,
[00:05:07.36] and this was his very first semester studying in the US at this university.
[00:05:12.23] He did not have a very strong command of written English, or spoken English for that matter.
[00:05:17.47] Sometimes we had some problems, like just understanding each other.
[00:05:20.99] But I think that despite, no matter how many times I explained
[00:05:24.78] the role of the writing consultant, which was like, you know,
[00:05:27.68] "Bring me a piece of text, or bring me some ideas
[00:05:29.95] "and then we'll think about them and think about improving them,"
[00:05:32.29] I think he just wanted me to write things for him.
[00:05:34.05] And we'd have all of these like heated discussions about like,
[00:05:38.02] "I can't do that for you, you know, this isn't my role."
[00:05:40.90] One day he like showed me ...
[00:05:43.60] He had invented some kind of engine or motor or something
[00:05:46.38] with certain pistons that were shaped a certain way.
[00:05:48.73] I don't understand this at all.
[00:05:49.80] And this is like an example of different kinds of literacies, right,
[00:05:54.21] that I one that I totally don't have, right, which is this mechanical knowledge,
[00:05:57.59] but he like opens up a computer,
[00:05:59.44] shows me this like moving diagram of how this engine works, and goes,
[00:06:03.68] "Well just, how would you describe this in English."
[00:06:05.92] And I was like, "Dude, I don't know. Like that means nothing to me, you know?"
[00:06:09.65] And so it was this interesting, you know, case where like
[00:06:13.46] he had all of this mechanical literacy that I knew nothing about, right?
[00:06:18.27] And then I had this like ability of like literacy in written English,
[00:06:21.94] academic English, which he was struggling with,
[00:06:24.51] but there was something about like, I don't know,
[00:06:28.53] maybe almost we had too much distance between those things or something,
[00:06:31.30] but it was like always very hard for us to, you know,
[00:06:34.32] because I just needed him to produce like some text, you know,
[00:06:37.52] so we could like talk through it and think about how to, how to improve it.
[00:06:42.63] So, you know, it's just balancing that, you know,
[00:06:46.10] on one level you are working in this, you're researching in this,
[00:06:49.07] you're kind of supposed to be an expert of sorts
[00:06:51.57] or you're supposed to know some things,
[00:06:53.88] but you're also just trying to meet people where they are
[00:06:56.14] [ INT: Yeah, that's great. ]