Isolation is a word that might raise similar images in many minds.
Someone might think about a prisoner alone in a cell.Others might consider being placed in time out, facing a blank wall. Sometimes the word conjures images of driving along lonely stretches of road in a vehicle. Isolation can also apply to work, and the folks who inhabit Writing Centers often feel a distinct separation from other campus activities. That is why attending a conference can be amazingly invigorating, refreshing, and energizing for those who assist students in one-on-one sessions, which are often located in remote corners or out-of-the-way rooms. Conferences give these dedicated people new ideas, a sense of belonging to a larger community, and increase both productivity and effectiveness in their centers.
Writing Centers have as many distinctly different personalities as do the directors who manage them. Centers may be set up like businesses or doctors’ offices, living rooms with work spaces, or even like break rooms, and directors put their personalities into the room(s) in various ways. At conferences, directors and consultants (tutors) share their research and innovative ideas with each other in both formal and informal settings. Attendees then take the ideas they like and infuse their own centers with them, adding a sense of newness to those home locations. The entire organization benefits from the renewal that occurs when these changes are put in place.
Likewise, the friendships forged at conferences arouse a sense of community: shared work, vision, challenges, and even a sort of shared dialect. There’s the perception of being in the work together. All face students with too little time, motivation, and interest in improving. However, we also all have those special moments of seeing students who plan ahead, care deeply, and truly want to improve. Exchanging narratives about those moments is somehow inspiring. Just knowing that there are others who participate in and encounter comparable situations simply comforts the listener. Imparting others’ stories to consultants who stayed behind to man the center increases the morale and understanding and helps them to feel included. (So does bringing home little souvenirs!)
As changes are made and stories shared, entire workforces become more productive and effective. Implementing new concepts or philosophies and rekindling excitement reaps benefits of new knowledge and skills. Deeper commitments develop because something innovative and delightful is sparked by variation in the work. A shift occurs when part of the team leaves and returns, impacting old attitudes. Leaders giving small gifts demonstrate appreciation and increase overall morale.
Directors and consultants need to attend conferences to rejuvenate writing centers.
Every attempt should be made to include as many people possible in the trip to maximize profit for the center. However, those who stay behind keeping the doors open and the sessions going will benefit, too, from both the enthusiasm and revelations disclosed by the attendees. Attend and come home refreshed. Then talk, talk, talk to the ones who did not go. Share everything you can recall. Bring that energy home and invigorate the center. Make it new again, to you and to all within.
Written By Kā