Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Writing Contests and Other Thoughts

I'm not feeling as desperate today about getting students to use the writing center. I just finished reading a chapter in The High School Writing Center: Establishing and Maintaining One, edited by Pamela B. Farrell. It's not a new publication (1989) but it is still considered one of the most relevant in terms of establishing writing centers in high schools. Each chapter is written by different writing center directors. Of interest to me at the moment is the one titled, "Filling the Room: Public Relations." I was heartened to learn of how much time one particular school had devoted to establishing credibility and relevance at their site.

They called their advance prep, "consciousness-raising" and began writing formal proposals almost 3 years before ever opening the site. I think of my preparation work last year and yet, that did not even directly involve the school I work with - it was my consciousness-raising about the concept of a high school writing center. This year I am trying to establish a presence in the building and in particular, get people to view me in a role very different from one they have seen me in in the past. So, it seems as though I still need another year to really get this writing center off the ground.

But, back to the book, I have many more ideas on how to involve teachers and students in the center. One thing I need to do now is find out the commitment of the English teachers on staff and then solicit their support in the continuity of the center after this year. I have contacted one teacher in particular who has been through the summer institute of the Minnesota Writing Project. Hopefully, she will know of other staff members who are pro-writing and who will be willing to visit a functioning writing center with me for a day and then give feedback on options for next year. I have the backing of the principal for this excursion.

If I get the English department on board and in support of the center, the principal will agree to continuing it next year. In that case, I see my role as a consultant until it's fully functioning. This chapter also gave me new thoughts on a high school-university partnership so I will explore that route as well.
The main point is that I don't feel nearly as discouraged as I have been about the lack of students in the center. I think with encouragement and motivation, students will use the center.

I also posted my flyers around the building today...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Soliciting Again

Not a satisfying afternoon...the teacher who requested help from me did not show up for our meeting. She seemed very serious about needing help for her 9th grade students before they tackle the MCA writing test. I have a feeling she may be out of the building today -
So, I was forced to focus on advertising for the center for most of my time today. I ran  flyers along with a note to all staff with passes attached that they can use with their students. This is my first attempt at an actual schedule and my first attempt at targeting students directly. So, while I sent a flyer with my hours on it to all staff, I gave English teachers packets of 30 flyers each that they could distribute directly to students. It's not enough for all of their students but they could focus in on one class or make more themselves. The important piece is for them to get the word out. I have been depending on teachers to recommend students to the writing center up to this point, thinking that they must know who needs support. But I haven't set a schedule before or tried to directly address the students with information. I am also posting information on each floor and in the cafeteria. Hopefully, students will respond.
I will recommend direct advertising to students to whoever takes over the center next year. That's something else for me to think about. How can this school staff a writing center without adding to the budget?