Many students here at Western Carolina University have found our means of employment via the University’s writing center. The Writing and Learning Commons, better known as the WaLC, has become a second home for a great deal of eager minds while trying to stay afloat in today’s economy. When I say second home I mean it in the most literal sense. For some of us, graduate assistants especially, we spend the majority of our week here in our little oasis of a break room. Before beginning my employment as a writing tutor at the WaLC I had little to no idea what all that would entail. This will be a brief shot at the day in the life of writing tutor here at Western’s writing center.
I must start by acknowledging that I myself am a graduate student here at the university and therefore can only express what home at the WaLC is like from that perspective. It is my understanding that writing tutors who are undergraduates have a slightly different schedule than us in the assistantship program. With that being said, here are just a few reasons that I have come to call the writing center my second home.
First reason being: you live here. As a tutor who has to reach a certain amount of hours a week you become highly acquainted with the writing center itself. This is especially true of the break room. One of the first things you learn is that there are, just like in every service work job, busy seasons and slow seasons. Most busy seasons at the writing center fall the week before each quarter of the semester is ending. The reason is simple; students wait until the last minute to receive help. During these weeks writing tutors become swamped. You will typically have back-to-back appointments throughout your entire shift. But these flocks of students do not stay consistent for an entire semester. They come and go in waves, depending on when deadlines are approaching. So what is like for a writing tutor during the off weeks?
This is where the idea of the WaLC as home comes into play. Because of our demanding schedules—weekly readings, papers, classes, teaching observations, and failed attempts at a personal life—many graduate assistants who are working in the WaLC have to strategically plan our hours of when we can be here. As graduate students we are required to work a certain amount of reasonable hours a week at the WaLC. Reasonable though these hours may be, they tend to add up when you factor in the rest of the things that are required to be outstanding graduate students. Because of this, every hour that we are not spending in class on campus, we spend in the writing lab.
Enter the break room. The writing center’s break room is where writing tutors spend the majority of their time during the off-season. The WaLC’s break room consists of a mini kitchen set up, a circular table with office supplies, personal folders for each tutor to keep track of their documents, three computers, and three couches. Ahhhh, the couches. If you are a tutor who has set hours you become quite acquainted with these couches. They are the safe haven from the tortures of graduate life. Sinking into the maroon couch in the far corner of the break room is quite often the best part of my day. Even as I am writing this I watch a fellow student fight to keep their eyes open as they attempt to catch up on some reading for their other classes. The couches tend to have this effect on all of us. It is not uncommon to see a tutor struggle with the urge of a quick doze. The couches’ inviting lure of a siesta is as sinister and cunning as that of the late night Netflix binge. As colleagues, we try to keep one another on our toes in order not to succumb.
The word “colleague” is a strange one to describe my fellow tutors, because we feel more like roommates. We share our “living space” and lives with one another in the break room. And like roommates, we talk, laugh, argue, annoy, share meals, and even, on the occasion, clean up after each other. This is one of the aspects that make the WaLC feel most like a second home. The camaraderie we must create in order to survive the hectic day comes out of necessity. If we do not stand with solidarity then there is a possibility of losing yourself in the depths of grad school blues. We do our best to keep one another motivated: discussing assignments, keeping up with deadlines of both school work and business meetings, describing what methods worked with a particular type of tutee. All of these things bring us together here at the WaLC, and it all happens within the break room. We spend so much time together that most of us know one another’s schedules. Benefits can arise from this type of closeness: most importantly, delegating and offering coffee runs. Coffee is essential to fight off the provocative couch nap.
Working at the writing center truly has been a lifestyle change. It is much like that of moving to a new place. Figuring out how long it takes to get places, the ins and outs of the “living room” situation, respecting personal space boundaries while in close quarters, the sensitivity of new kitchen appliances. Your coworkers become like family, where like them or not, you’re stuck with them. All of these things factor into the life of a WaLCer. Again, my only experience has been that of Graduate Assistant, and I am sure many of the other employment opportunities offered at the learning commons may differ in a variety of ways. That being said I hope that this rant has given my esteemed reader a slight understanding of the life at WaLC.