Former ‘Senior Room’ Transforms Into Writing Center

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Jess Dosik, Deputy News Editor

As Poly enters the new school year, the schoolwide Writing Center has been reenvisioned. The Writing Center, formerly known as the Studio, was previously run by English teacher John Rearick. This year, the student support team has taken over. The Center has also moved to what was previously known as the “Reading Room” in the Joseph Dana Allen Library.  The student support team has plans to bring interactive experiences and workshops to the center.

Before this year, the Writing Center looked very different. The Center was mostly focused on the idea of peer tutoring and on editing, revising, and writing individual student assignments. The studio was for people who excelled in writing and those who struggled to come together in a space where “experimentation and even messing up was okay,” said Rearick. The motto of the studio was  “Everybody improves.” as told by Rearick. However, after five years of running the studio, Rearick decided to step down. 

This year, the Writing Center has a new faculty director: Juliet Moretti, Director of Student Support for both the Middle and Upper School. “The idea is to continue what the Writing Center has been doing, but also expand it to not only be about needing support on assignments… But most critically, celebrating writing,” Moretti explained.  

In “Writing Celebrations…But Why,” an article on the website Two Writing Teachers, a publication that unites teachers through the art of writing, makes the point that “Writers write for an audience…and celebrations provide an audience. Everything we do in a writing workshop…is meant to closely mirror what real writers do in the real world. And one thing writers do is write for an audience.” This kind of thinking is what Moretti and the Poly community are striving to achieve with the new Writing Center. 

 

“I would love to host a space sort of similar to an open mic…or bring in guest writers to do a sci-fi writing night or a poetry school night.””

— Juliet Moretti

 

In the previous studio, the goal was to staff the center with students rather than teachers. The main purpose of a student-run Writing Center, according to Rearick, was that student tutors could provide different feedback than a teacher and they also benefited from the tutoring. Rearick would enlist seniors to tutor mostly freshman, sophomore, and middle school students. These tutors would receive training so they could purposefully listen and provide feedback.

But this year, the new director plans for the Center to be mostly staffed with teachers and faculty members along with students who want to contribute. However, there is not enough staff to have a teacher stationed in the center everyday and tending to students simply stopping by for help. Therefore the Center will function as a way to schedule one-on-one meetings, meaning students must take the initiative to reach out to teachers in order to properly utilize the Writing Center.

A study from Lead, a group that works to help people develop beneficial leadership skills around the world, reports that “one-on-one attention over a longer period of time… resulted in more drafts, more revisions, and overall a higher quality of writing than they might have produced had they stopped earlier in the process.” Moretti said that the benefit of one-on-one connections will be the main focus in the new Center and she is confident that when it comes to one-on-one support, there will be plenty of faculty members and teachers available. 

Former Poly history teacher Susan Beiles who is now a part-time member of the Writing Center will be available every Tuesday. She has already begun a very specific task: Helping seniors with their college essays. To set up one of these meetings, all a student must do is email a writing center employee or Moretti herself. 

A key aspect of the new Writing Center will be extracurricular writing events. “I would love to host a space sort of similar to an open mic…or bring in guest writers to do a sci-fi writing night or a poetry school night… depending on what student interests are,” said Moretti. Poly is still working on ways of notifying students about when these workshops and guest speaking sessions will take place, but discussions are already underway about establishing them. 

Another large change in the atmosphere of the new Writing Center is its location. Different from its previous location on the upper levels of the library, this space is on display. “[Michal Herskovitz, Assistant Head of School, Academics] actually chose the new location, which I think is great just because I think the visibility has improved and the new location is outfitted with new furniture,” Moretti explained. 

Along with changes to the geography and decor of the Center, there are some concerns, especially from the senior class, about its move. The space formerly known as the “Reading Room” was known to much of the high school as the “Senior” room. Senior Abby Contessa explains: “it was mostly to give a privilege to the seniors and give them a more comfortable area to get work done… a lot of people used to hang out there and collaborate.” Contessa also acknowledged that “a part of being a senior is getting to sit in that senior room so it’s definitely upsetting that we don’t have that chance now.” 

However, Contessa can see how the space is beneficial, especially for students during their senior year. Working on college essays and personal statements is a big part of a student’s final year in high school. “I’m a senior and I need someone to proofread my college essays. I think it’s a great idea just to get overall help and someone to read your writing,” Contessa remarked. 

Junior Khari Freeman also questioned the importance of the space and stated that “I think there is really no purpose in having a writing center. That space used to be a space for us upperclassmen to use and at the moment we can’t.” Additionally, junior Shriya Nanduru  commented that students can just email their own teachers if they need extra writing support. Nanduru sees the Center as being unnecessary and mostly just taking away the “tradition” of the senior space. 

 

“To those seniors that are upset about losing the space, I invite them to channel that energy into their preferences and to seek our support.””

— Juliet Moretti

 

However, Moretti responded “To those seniors that are upset about losing the space, I invite them to channel that energy into their preferences and to seek our support…we’re happy to provide it.”

Moretti continued,“Sometimes we have this tendency as humans, as students, to think that there’s so much separation between fun versus the academic grind. There’s just so much more overlap to that. We can find joy in these types of pursuits that also help us to sharpen skills and deepen our thinking and all of those good things that we love. I’m hoping that’ll be something that we can accomplish.”