Sharpening Skills in the Writing Center

Drs. Susan Frenck and Deborah March have reignited the ambition to create a Writing Center a year after it was cancelled for various reasons. 

Writing centers have been a new trend in Fairfax County Public Schools, where there are about twelve, beginning at Edison High School. March said writing centers have been rare in high schools, almost exclusively seen in colleges, but have been wildly successful. The writing center is a place for peer-centered, collaborative working. Frenck said she thinks it is great for students who are struggling with writing, writer’s block and fine-tuning.

“It gives the student a chance to reflect on what they hope to gain and the tutor a chance to see themselves as an expert or master of a particular discipline,” March said.

Frenck said the tutoring she did in graduate school helped her decide to take initiative with the writing center. March said she was inspired to help Frenck organize a writing center after the work she did at her own college Writing Center. Last year, when March was a sub for English teacher Desiree Reynolds, she said she got the opportunity to speak with Frenck about a center for student writing.

“Dr. Frenck has really led the way since I’ve been here,” March said. “She’s so student centered, and she’s a role model for organization.”

March said that the biggest challenge about organizing the center has been compiling a body of tutors, because other FCPS schools with the writing center have Advanced Composition classes which teach students how to tutor. She said they have been utilizing National English Honor Society students, but she would like to see more diversity in the mix.

March said she thought having ungraded writing edited would be the best for students, because she thinks they feel like they can take bold risks with ungraded work. She said shewants students to feel like they can interact, comment and engage their own ideas.   

Frenck thought being a reader alone is the most powerful tool for a writer to utilize.

Frenck said she would like for students to consider the writing center to be a constant resource for working, a place they can go for certain resources and assistance.

Frenck said, “I think that writing – when it’s done well – is so wonderful. The puzzle aspect of writing is a challenge– but the rewards so great.”