The St. John’s Writing Center is one of the school’s many academic resources. Although there is tutoring available in every subject, writing is an essential skill that requires separate attention—hence, its own department was established.
As the head coordinator of the Writing Center, Ms. Gelso gave more detail into what it is and why it is important to the St. John’s academic community. “The Writing Center is a place where any student can come with any piece of writing at any point in the writing process for feedback or help. I think it actually really easily connects and supports our Lasallian mission at our school of meeting every student where they are. It’s this individualized support system for writing—whether students feel like they’re struggling writers successful writers, anyone can come in and get the help that they need and the feedback that’s useful to them,” Ms. Gelso said. The essential purpose of it is to help students become better writers, not just to produce better writing.
However, the Writing Center made a major change this school year: instead of only having English teachers consult with students, a staff of seniors was created to conduct with students as well. This is a huge deal for both new tutors and tutees, for tutors are gaining leadership experience while tutees are learning from their peers, not authoritative figures.
Ms. Gelso explained why this shift is beneficial to students and how it improved the Writing Center overall. “The most successful, most relied upon writing centers at the university level are all peer staffed by university students or graduate students. So that’s one of the things that a Writing Center can best practice, to have students staffing. But it also I think creates a more welcoming atmosphere for some students who come in. It’s a really hard thing to share your writing with someone else because writing can be so personal, so having someone who is a peer can make someone more comfortable sharing something that can be personal,” Ms. Gelso said.
This new change has been quite successful so far; with nine peer tutors and six PR staff members, the Writing Center has been more active than ever. To get more insight into what it means to be a tutor, Evan Moses ‘19 shared what his role is. “As a peer tutor basically for your first few sessions you watch Ms. Gelso work with other students so you can know the skills that you need to tutor people,” Moses said. “And then after that you start meeting with students and working with them, helping them with their essays, projects, whatever they come in for.”
Lilian Kistner ‘20 shared her experience with it and how it has been beneficial to her. “My teacher was grading these essays really hard and I needed to get a good grade, so I went to the Writing Center and they helped me with the grammar and organization of the essay and I got a good grade. I definitely would go back again. They give you some good tips and a different perspective on the essay, and help you get some new ideas,” Kistner said.
If you are interested in meeting with a peer tutor at the Writing Center in the future, they are available everyday during homeroom and everyday except for Friday after school. Also, there are always English teachers available during lunch periods.