I sit now on the balcony of my hotel room in Miami. The Atlantic churns steadily below, but it has been especially tumultuous since yesterday afternoon. My notions of a post-conference dip were pulled out to sea with the riptide warning that’s been in effect for almost the entire weekend. I, of course, curse myself now for having left some work to do on my presentation Thursday afternoon. The feeble consolation prize wade I took tonight only deepened that regret: the water was pleasantly warm and would have been perfect for a swim, except for those pesky 10 ft waves and the purple flag advisory indicating the presence of “Dangerous Marine Life.”
Fortunately, I did not just wade into the National Conference on Peer Tutoring and Writing (see what I did there? Heh. Writing is neat). Having been to one conference already this year as an attendee, a second as a co-presenter, and finally NCPTW as a solo presenter, I knew well enough to really get in deep and get soaked this time. I’d scheduled my flights for the purpose of taking in the whole conference without missing a session, and I kept to that plan. Being a first-time attendee to NCPTW, I went off the assumption that it’d be a bunch of tutors talking about tutoring. I was right, but it really was so much more.
When you really commit to something, really think about it as constantly as I have come to do with writing center theory in the past 12-18 months, a thought roams wider inside your head the deeper you go: Am I really getting this, or am I just scratching the surface in a pale imitation of real theorists? The answer NCPTW provided: I am just scratching the surface, but I am also really beginning to get this.
Many times this weekend, I found myself simply getting it. I don’t know how else to describe that sense of philosophical zen or oneness. I didn’t necessarily agree with everything I heard, but what I observed in sessions and their related discussions was relatable to something I had experienced, had read about, or as in some cases, had been studying closely myself. Jennifer Forsthoefel (Georgia State), in talking about achieving (or retaining) peerness in a writing center session as a graduate writing tutor/consultant, made observations very similar to my own from my session the day before, even going so far as to draw her theory from some of the same sources.
This unexpected philosophical parity is reassuring, but not because I feel like someone working at a higher level has independently drawn some of the same conclusions I have. It’s that I know I’m not off in left field, not completely missing the point of these key discussions. It’s exciting to realize that while I may not yet have joined the larger venues of the discussion, I recognize that I’m almost there. I’m only scratching the surface of what the sessions at NCPTW accomplished for me right now, and I really hope to explore the after-conference effects in upcoming posts.
So to shoehorn home the metaphor I so artlessly started earlier, attending and presenting at NCPTW has gotten me to a point past wading and past treading water. I’m not swimming in the rough surf yet, but NCPTW has at least convinced me I’m in no imminent danger of rhetorically drowning. Now about that “Dangerous Marine Life” …
Special note: I’d like to express my sincere appreciation to the selection committees working with the University of Michigan-Flint’s Fran Frazier Travel Grant and NCPTW’s Registration & Grub Grant. The support provided by these grants made this trip and all its positive results possible.