Saint Mary's University Writing Centre

Halifax, NS


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“Bad” Writers? Worse Consultations: Confidence and Writing Center Pedagogy

Originally posted in Praxis: A Writing Center Journal

James Garner

“So what brings you into the writing center today?”

“Well, I’m not a very good writer…”

Of the first exchanges I have with students visiting the writing center, some version of the above is what I hear perhaps most frequently. Often, before we’ve ever discussed an assignment prompt or looked at a single line of prose, the student tells me what might be a personal confession about their self-perception as a writer, and in my experience, I’ve found that if that statement goes unaddressed, the session as a whole just doesn’t go well. Helping students who express this concern build their confidence, I think, is one of the most important unspoken jobs that we have as writing consultants not only for the students but, also, for our pedagogy and for the productivity of the consultation.

Aside from the obvious compassionate angle to instilling confidence, this trepidation and negative self-perception has some crucial implications for our pedagogy as consultants. It’s frustrating to think of yourself as a poor writer, to feel that no matter how hard you try to articulate yourself, what you want to say comes out all wrong—and then you’re given a grade on top of that. Continue reading