The founder of Thacher’s new Writing and Research Center, Ms. Sil Sohn, has dreamed of bringing a writing center to the school ever since she arrived. Having participated in her university’s peer tutoring center and taking note of the many writing centers in boarding schools across the country, she thought the program could bring Thacher up to par with other peer schools that have successful writing centers.
When Ms. Logan Brown came to interview at Thacher last year, she mentioned that her past school, The Williston Northampton School of Massachusetts, had great success with a peer tutoring program, and it was something she would like to bring to Thacher. With this new support arriving on campus this year, and added encouragement from Ms. Joy Sawyer-Mulligan, the Thacher Writing and Research Center launch was underway.
A lot of research was required to formulate just how the Writing and Research Center would operate. The developers looked into schools such as Andover, Deerfield, and Baylor University to draw features that would work well in Thacher’s unique environment.
Thacher’s own peer-based Writing and Research Center opened for business after winter break. Twenty juniors and seniors were recommended by their English and history teachers in the fall to participate, then applied and were selected for the position through a series of grammar skill assessments and practice.
These peer tutors have set up an appointment system, in which they offer 15 minute slots of their own time (about 45 minutes of a free period or study hall per week) for students to sign up for help. Students are also welcome to walk in to the writing center’s headquarters – located in the library’s archive room – to request assistance. Additionally, five faculty advisors (Mr. Donald Okpalugo and Ms. Whitney Livermore from History Department; Ms. Sohn, Ms. Brown, and Ms. Sawyer-Mulligan from English Department) plan to each offer two or three appointment slots a week.
Because faculty at Thacher are so busy outside of classes, the center aims to take some of that extra stress off the teachers by providing students an alternative outlet for questions and help.
“As soon as I assign a big paper, I will definitely recommend that all of my students visit the writing center at least once some time in their writing process,” said Ms. Brown.
The center’s jurisdiction is extensive; tutors can assist students in essay writing, research projects and presentations.
So far, business has been slow, but Ms. Sohn accredits this to uncertainty and a lack of public knowledge about the program.
“Once teachers start getting the word out and students see that we can be helpful, I’m sure we’ll have much higher demand.”
Ms. Sohn is also working on developing a website that will give students access to more information about the goals of the center and what they do, a FAQ page, and a resources page to help students with their research and writing.
As business picks up, the center hopes to find a more permanent home for the operation. In the far future, the Writing and Research Center could develop into a comprehensive peer tutoring system – involving other subjects such as math and science – to mirror the success of other schools.
One of Ms. Brown’s goals is increasing the training of the tutors to better serve their peers.
“In the future, I would like to see students working for the writing center get really good training, such as sending them to conferences. It would be like professional development for tutors.”
Instead of becoming just a place to learn where to put a comma, the masterminds of the center hope to create a haven where students can have real conversations about writing, and soon the center will become an inherent piece of the Thacher experience.
Click HERE to book an appointment with a WRC Peer Tutor!