Around Tappan Square



Around Tappan Square
Peer Power

"EXPRESSING ONESELF ON PAPER IS FOR MOST PEOPLE DIFFICULT, agonizing, frightening; a shattering, tumultuous ordeal; a small or terrible nightmare," writes Jenny Love '91, a contributor to Working with Student Writers: Essays on Tutoring and Teaching. "We often do not write when we should write...we instead brew a cup of coffee or tea, or make a phone call, or clean our room."

Love's observations about writer's block stem from her experiences as a peer writing tutor at Oberlin, where strong student writers coach their peers in the art of written expression. She is among several Obies who lent essays to the book, edited by professor of expository writing and English Len Podis and his wife, JoAnne, which offers hands-on advice for tutors and student teachers. The guide is the first of its kind to contain pieces exclusively by peer tutors and describes the techniques that best helped them tackle common writing problems.

"One of the most important parts of tutoring is giving students the self-confidence they need to be able to begin writing in a voice that is closer to their own conversational speech," writes Emily Fawcett '96, in her essay on conversational versus presentational speech. Other topics include the difficulty of science writing, empowering marginalized learners, the dilemmas of grading, and the use of "Black English" as a dialect.

For years, peer tutors have been enrolled in Podis' course, Teaching and Tutoring Writing Across the Disciplines, a popular class in the Expository Writing Program that draws an increasingly diverse group of students each semester. Initiated in 1976 by then-student David Plank '76, the program evolved from a private reading class to a regularly listed course and celebrates its 25th anniversary next spring.

"It's hard to meaningfully intervene with writers' established habits and patterns," says Podis. "But when you can help them improve their writing technique and make the good even better, then you improve their confidence, too."

Working with Student Writers: Essays on Tutoring and Teaching, Peter Lang Publishing, 1999.





Potential Co-op Bookstore shoppers were greeted with a "closed until further notice" sign November 8, suggesting an end to the 60-year store that battled years of financial hardships following its 1992 renovation. Although the future of the building is uncertain, students are being assured that buying textbooks for the spring semester won't be a problem. Still, the campus community will undoubtedly feel the effects of the void. As President Dye so aptly expressed, "We are a reading community, and we need first and foremost a good bookstore."
Students wearing clothes bearing the labels of Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, the Gap, and other manufacturers associated with sweatshops may soon be targeted by the Student Labor Action Coalition. An October fashion show was the group's first effort in a campaign to make Oberlin a sweat-free campus, part of a national movement to raise awareness about poor working conditions. The College itself has made significant progress in the fight by writing new labor-friendly guidelines for college purchases. "If we target a few companies and expose them, we can force the whole clothing industry to recognize worker's rights," said junior Peter Olsen.
Vocal performance major Laurie Rubin enjoyed the well-deserved privilege of singing at the White House in October in honor of National Handicap Awareness Month. Rubin, who has been blind since birth, took part in a presentation for the Very Special Arts, an organization that helps launch the careers of young musicians with disabilities. "I hope to break ground in opera," says Rubin, a junior, who sang the role of Rosette in Oberlin Opera Theater's fall production of Massenet's "Manon."
On Saturday, May 27, (Commencement/ Reunion Weekend), the John W. Heisman Club will honor the varsity teams of 1950 who put together the best overall record in Oberlin's history, as well as the women's athletic program of the last 25 years.

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