Welcome

The goal is to help you feel safe and secure in Writing Center by letting you know what to expect in our community.  Feel free to reach out to Jeff with any questions or concerns. The goal is that you feel supported and cared for.  Our relationship and your well being is the most important concern.

Course Description

“Liberated relationships are one of the ways we actually create abundant justice, the understand that there is enough attention, care, resource, and connection for all of us to access belonging, to be in our dignity, and to be safe in community”

–adrienne maree brown, Pleasure Activism

Welcome (back) to the team!  Being a Writing Center tutor is fun, exciting, and important, as we are working together to close resource gaps, celebrate student voices, and advocate for important changes in our school and with our community.  From tutoring to working in local schools to publishing our literary magazine, there are so many different ways to get involved in building spaces that are equity driven, identity affirming, and justice seeking.  The only wrong way to be involved in our collective work toward democracy and liberation is to not be involved at all; we all have a role to play in rehumanizing school, eliminating disproportionality, and creating environments where everyone can experience respect and success as their fullest selves.

We have four core values that guide our work: growth mindset, funds of knowledge, shared vulnerability, and community collaboration.  You can learn more about we define these terms below and in our equity and access statements.

Core Four Beliefs Graphic - Revised 621

Check out our video for more information on Writing Center if you haven’t already.

Tutoring

This year, our tutoring will take three forms:

  • Face-to-face tutoring with individual students or small groups in the Writing Center.  Students can drop in with anything they’re working on–school-related or not–at any stage of the writing process and get affirmation and support.
  • Face-to-face tutoring with individual students or small groups in classrooms by teacher invitation.
  • Asynchronous OWL tutoring where students send us their work and we offer growth-oriented, supportive feedback through Google comments or videos and write a short email in return.

We’ll spend parts of our Skytime working together to develop strategies to provide student-centered tutoring across any of these forms using our core values of growth mindset, funds of knowledge, shared vulnerability, and community collaboration as a guide.

Assignments

“Any situation in which some individuals prevent others from engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence. The means used are not important; to alienate human beings from their own decision-making is to change them into objects.”

–Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

As humans, you have the right to inquiry and to make important choices about how and what you learn.  You have agency, and using that agency requires moving beyond the trust-poor compliance environments of school: learning is not about tests, grades, and agreeing with authority.  Elevating adults and their interests over students is dangerous, especially in schools, where power dynamics are often one-sided.  In Writing Center, you are trusted, affirmed, and supported.  Learning should happen in a way that is directly meaningful to you; it should reflect your needs, your. interests, and your greatness.

You have languages, literacies, and knowledges that are important, meaningful, and need to be shared with the Writing Center world and beyond; we need you and your voice to transform our school and community spaces to be less harmful, more fair, and increasingly responsive.

Here is an overview of all assignments:

Assignments for Active Tutors
You are an active tutor if you are scheduled for an hour of Writing Center this term.

Make an Introduction Video

An example introduction video from a former tutor.

It’s important that our people in our school community get to know the amazing, exceptional people we have involved in our Writing Center.  We’ve been told that having short introductions on our website helps teachers help students get to know you more and feel less intimidated getting help from you.  We’ll be using a website called Flipgrid to record short introductions about ourselves, and these videos will be posted to our website.

      • Go here or download the Flipgrid app on your phone and enter code 56cfef. Enter the password: WritingCenter.
      • Once you’ve navigated to the correct grid either online or on the app, click on the green circle with the plus in the center to start recording your video. This is a time to say something about yourself that moves beyond the basics: what are your interests? What do you love about writing? Why did you decide to be in Writing Center? This is a great place to share a little vulnerability and reduce any barriers to people seeking out writing support. Try keeping your video pretty short; aim for about 60-90 seconds. Remember: this is going to be publicly available.
      • Once you’re done recording your video, you’ll be asked to snap a selfie for the front of the grid. Then, you’ll be asked to enter your first name and last name in order to earn credit.
      • If you are tutoring in multiple semester, you only need to make a video during the first semester you are enrolled.  If you are a returning tutor, you need to make a new video for this year.

Have a Getting Started Meeting

Schedule a time during the first two weeks of the term to have a getting started meeting with Jeff to introduce yourself, talk about significant, formative moments in your identity as a reader and writer, consider questions and concerns you have about Writing Center, and set social-emotional goals for the term.  We will revisit your progress on these goals during the End-of-Term Mini-Conference.

Social-Emotional Learning Areas - Revised 621

Write an Autoethnography (New Tutors)

Think about your experiences in the schools that you’ve attended, especially consider what reading and writing have meant to you based on who you are. When did you learn to love or loathe writing? Was there someone or something that sparked your imagination, or was there someone or something that dampened it? What do you love to read, and why do you love to read it? What matters to you about education, and why does it matter to you? The goal of this assignment is for you to think meaningfully about your experiences with literacy—positive, negative, and neutral—in school so that you can apply what you’ve experienced into your tutoring. We want to replicate awesome experiences for those we work with, and we want to avoid recreating bad experiences.

To complete this assignment: 

    • Think about an experience that you had with literacy in the past that meant something to you (positive, negative, or otherwise), and consider how that experience affected you.
    • Write your story, ensuring that you don’t just tell what happened, but that you also tell how what happened made you feel, compelled you to believe, and allowed you to see. Feel free to be honest here, as that will allow you to really examine what works and what doesn’t when we start talking about working with others around reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Also: when examining your experiences with literacy, it might also be useful to consider your intersecting identities and how those may have altered your experiences in school.
    • This can take any form you want it take: a poem, a collage of photos, a video, an audio recording, a song, a traditional story. You choose!
    • Share your work to Jeff on Google Drive (austinj@a2schools.org).

Write a Statement of Purpose (Returning Tutors)

In the Writing Center, one of our primary goals is to help students find their path to purpose.  Per the Human Restoration Project, This means you understand your skills and abilities, know how those abilities can help others + find enjoyment and fulfillment in using their skills and abilities in a community-oriented way.  Our school, community, and world are best when students’ languages, literacies, and knowledges are honored.

To complete this assignment, answer the following questions:

  • Why are you here?  What does being in Writing Center mean to you?  What do you hope to be your legacy here?
  • If you had a magic wand and could change anything about yourself, our school, or our community, what would it be?  Why would is change be important to you?  How does it align with your identity, skills, criticality, and intellect? Remember: when we vision a future, it becomes more possible.
  • While we don’t have a magic wand, our time as Writing Center tutors allow us an important advocacy platform to make personal and structural changes.  What are some small actions that you could take to make your change more possible?  Think about the path: what are small “victories” you could celebrate along the way?
  • This can take any form you want it take: a poem, a collage of photos, a video, an audio recording, a song, a traditional story. You choose!
  • Share your work to Jeff on Google Drive (austinj@a2schools.org).

Write a Blog Post

Our blog is a space where we can amplify your voices and celebrate the work that your doing at Skyline and beyond.  You work is an important contribution to the broader writing center community.

During an assigned week at some point during the school year (usually during one of the semesters you are enrolled as a tutor), you will be scheduled to make a blog post about your work and the work of peer tutoring in the Writing Center. The blog post, which should be around 500 words, should find a way to marry your personal experience inside and outside of the Writing Center with the learning from your passion project.

You can visit the blog to see how others have approached writing their posts and find inspiration for your own writing.

Engage in a Passion Project + Earn a Writing Center Badge

In each semester that you are enrolled as a tutor, you will engage in self-directed, choice-based learning in order to earn a badge in an area that interests you. You will have an opportunity to design your own learning journey and put your learning into action in our Writing Center, school, and community, all while being trusted, supported, and mentored through the process by teachers, community members, and peers.  There’s no single way to learn or express you learning.  Remember: start small, work toward scale, and always embrace the process.  Our goals for this work are:

Skyline Writing Center Learning Goals - Revised 621

You can (and should!) choose to combine with other enrolled tutors to work together on your badges.  Working together can give you a thought partner, provide meaningful support, and help you be mutually accountable.  Earning your badges should not be a process you undertake alone: we’re dealing with collective issues, and these issues require collective solutions.  We need to work in trusting relationships with each other and our community to maximize our impact.

As a tutor, you can earn badges in six different areas during this school year:

Writing Center Badge Explanations - Revised 621

Each journey will look a little different, but we will be working with the guide below that provides some suggested steps.  We will have the opportunity to conference frequently throughout the term to celebrate your victories, learn from your setbacks, and chart a course for the future.

Writing Center Badge Process - 2021-2022

Check out these past badge projects to jumpstart your own thinking about what you might do, including carrying on the legacy of some of these projects:

Have an End-of-Term Mini-Conference

During the final two weeks of the semester, we will meet informally for you to talk about how you have grown, areas where you are still working to grow, and ways that the Writing Center community can help support you in reaching your goals.  This will count as your final exam for the course.  During the conference, we will also determine your final grade for the course using our labor-based grading criteria discussed below.

Assignments for Everyone
These assignments need to be completed whether you are scheduled for an hour of tutoring or not.

Contribute to Teen Spirit

Our annual Skyline Writing Prize and Teen Spirit literary magazine are ways to honor those stories, center student voices, and ensure that our community hears from you.  You can submit a movie, a piece of music, an essay, a short story, a collage, a poem, a photograph, an original artwork, or anything else that you want by the deadline to have it printed in Teen Spirit and to be automatically entered for a chance to win the Writing Prize.  The pieces you submit could be those that you’ve already created; we’re looking for your best work, even if it was written for another purpose.

Labor-Based Grading

“They must liberate themselves.  They cannot be liberated.  So antiracist writing assessment ecologies are counter-hegemonic in this way, in giving the means of grade production, assessment production, and the production of expectations, over to students, or mostly over to students.”

–Asao Inoue, Antiracist Writing Assessment Ecologies

Labor-Based Grading Website Graphic - Revised 621

One shift that Writing Center asks you to make is to use zero-based thinking, which means that our goals are not based on what is, but what can be if we use our values to imagine a different system.  Grades tell you to be standardized, to learn the same thing, the same way, and at the same speed as all of your classmates, and that’s not how learning really works.  These numbers and letters also keep you from really learning by inventing failure based on someone else’s standards, usually white, male, cishet, neurotypical, English-dominant, middle class standards, and that is inconsistent with our beliefs and our vision.

This course will use labor-based grading, which separates your work and my limited, biased judgement of your work, which means that you’ll spend a lot of time assessing yourself, working through my feedback and peer feedback to see what works for you, and, most importantly, asking questions about the systems in which you exist but to which you never consented.  While this kind of learning is really self-directed, it’s also important that we seek each other out as resources.

While you won’t be graded based on my arbitrary judgment of your work, you will get full credit for the work that you complete.  Since you have the most at stake with grading, you will also have a chance to offer suggestions and feedback on the chart below.  According to Asao Inoue, students’ direct participation in the grading structure is one of the steps we need to take to combat power asymmetry between teachers and students in our school to create anti-racist, anti-oppressive environments.

The suggested labor-based contract for 2020-2021 is:

Labor-Based Grading Contract - 2021-2022

Transformative Justice and Conflict Resolution

“It’s not punishment that gets us to safety. It’s accountability.”

–Danielle Sered, Common Justice

We are a large group of people doing important work inside of a complex network of systems, which means sometimes conflict will arise.  Conflict doesn’t have to be negative, especially if we collectively, in community, to improve our ability to make it generative.  As adrienne maree brown writes, “I want us to get excellent at being in conflict.”  This goal, which requires substantial commitment from everyone in our community, requires us to think differently about how we disagree, how we seek accountability outside traditionally oppressive systems, how we apologize, and, ultimately, how we imagine and take steps toward reducing harm both now and in the future and personal and systemic levels.  Transformative justice requires us to address harm at the roots without replicating unhealthy, non-generative ways of holding one another accountable.

Throughout our time together in Writing Center, we will work toward generative conflict and transformative justice by resisting our desire for retribution while centering the safety of those who have been harmed, by learning how to apologize and how to seek understanding, by learning how to be accountable and holding space for individuals and systems to grow, and by learning to look beyond just the individual to root causes of harm.


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