The Origins of In-Person, Zoom, and Online Appointments: A Story by Jake

Introduction

Hello, all you Writing Center Blog Fans! We are back with another fan-freaking-tastic adventure into the inner workings of the Writing Center. From the outside, it may seem like a simple place full of exuberance and jubilee, but trust me, on the inside we put ourselves through the wringer to give you the writing support you need. For us to do our job, so that you can work towards your future job, we need to know what location is most comfortable for you to receive our help. Because of this, we put our greatest minds together and developed a three-pronged approach to conquer the art of tutoring.

Trust me, it’s as mysterious as it sounds—I still have only gathered fragments of its origin from its founders, as they travel to lands unknown when the subject is broached. Where they went was beyond me, but I hope one day I can frolic with them in the fields they permanently toil or the sea they permanently tread. And if the stars align just so, we may one day stumble through rolling green hills together and slip into an ocean as blue as the fresh morning dew. But until then, I will recount what I know of the origins of tutoring appointments here:

The Story

In-Person Appointments were the first to be discovered:

One day in a Writing Center not so far away (in fact, it’s located in the library next to the Starbucks), Tutor 001 was sitting alone clacking away, tapping their foot, and bobbing their head when they heard frantic footsteps from beyond the doorway. What could this mean, they thought, is the prophecy true? (Side note: this prophecy nonsense feels farfetched, but just go with it. Let’s just say Tutor 001 doesn’t have all their I’s dotted and T’s crossed, if you know what I mean). From the doorway, 001 heard a voice whisper, “Excuse me, I need help with a paper.” At this, 001 froze, the clacking ceased, the tapping quit, the bobbing stuck. Slowly, 001 closed their computer and turned to the doorway. Before them stood the very first In-person Appointment tutee. 001 assuredly ushered them in with a wave of their pencil-equipped hand and said, “Then you’re in the write place… you see what I did there?” The tutee, occupied with measured steps, missed the cheap pun and sank into the plastic chair next to 001. “I’m sorry I just walked in, I didn’t know where to schedule an appointment,” they whispered, with eye contact this time. At this, the look that would come to adorn 001 permanently cast over them (again, what comes next sounds like some bruhaha to me, but hey what do I know, I wasn’t there), and what they saw was a world full of picnic blankets and charcuterie boards, where people gathered in circles with homemade punch and scribbled away on personalized notebooks and spoke up for advice when struck by an impenetrable writer’s block. At this moment, 001 knew that what they said and did next would fill the first inkwell on the path to that promised land. They said, “No need to worry, I’d be happy to help you, and next time, you can schedule an appointment on a helpful tool called Starfish by selecting the In-Person session option.”

Zoom Appointments came next:

For many years, In-Person appointments were all the rage. Tutors 002-050 joined tutor 001 on the front lines and the tutee population grew exponentially. They spread their love of writing and editing everywhere they went, taking notes asking for help, and offering advice. The Tutors loved seeing their blossoming young tutees crane their necks over the shoulder of a new tutee bulb. Soon the passion for sharing carried them far and wide and, sadly, traveling back to the Writing Center (next to Starbucks) for an In-Person Appointment became a burden. With time, the essential lessons they learned from the Tutors were lost, and the tutees began offering unconstructive criticism and idolizing false cognates. The Tutors knew they had to act, but they didn’t know how. They gathered for weeks and weeks and made no headway; they were too stuck in their ways to see the answer right in front of their noses. They had met their match and needed something or someone to overcome it for them. And, lo and behold, that person was Tutee 001.

(To be honest, by now I doubt you’re reading this so I’ll just say that you can schedule Zoom appointments by clicking the Zoom check box on Starfish, which is a thirty-minute Zoom conversation with a tutor. There is also an Online appointment option, which is when you send your paper to writing.center@millersville.edu with your M#, the class that it is for, and what specifically you need help with, and we’ll leave comments and send it back to you. Please check out https://blogs.millersville.edu/writingresources/2023/04/28/scheduling-an-appointment-on-starfish/ to find out how to operate Starfish. Now, for those who’d like to keep reading, here you go).

From the first In-Person appointment, Tutee 001 knew they wanted to wander the land, spreading the wisdom bestowed upon them by Tutor 001. They never strayed from what they had heard: be calm, ask questions, lead and don’t direct, learn from the Tutee as they learn from the Tutor. In their travels, they learned what it meant to be both Tutor and Tutee; they swung their legs off the bridge lodged between the Tutors stuck in their ways and the Tutees lost in the haze. When they heard the battle cries sound from one end of the bridge at the other, they knew it was time to return to the Writing Center from which they came. It was time to toe the bridge.

To the Center they went and, upon arrival, were bombarded with disarray. Loose leaf papers were flapping in the currents sent by the air vents and red ink rivers running across the carpet, pouring out the fateful pens. There was no clacking to be heard, no sound bouncing from one bare wall to the next. Deep inside the walled fortress of the Center, Tutee 001 discovered Tutors 001-050 huddled together, quivering in their failure. They were a defeated bunch with haggard faces and still fingers and muffled moans. Tutee 001 stood in the doorway until the Tutors acknowledged the presence of one of their pupils, as they had done since the beginning. Tutee 001 declared, “You are a defeated bunch. You are weary and drained. You fear that you have failed. But defeat gives you a choice. Stay down, sprawled and subdued with inanition. Or rise up, proud and coalesced by determination. You must expand your teachings to the beat of your following. You must channel the power possessed in Zoom into your practices. You must enter the face-to-face communication digital landscape.”

At this rousing speech, Tutors 001-050 stood one by one. They raised their chins to the tarped-over skylight and watched as a corner broke its bonds and flapped in the fresh air, revealing the beaming sun.

Online Appointments came last:

One day, once the Tutors’ ranks grew beyond triple digits, the unassuming and quiet Tutor 0008 suggested an Online Appointment option be added to Starfish (cue nature sounds, opera, violin). Tutors 0001-9999 came together for the one and only meeting of the entire Tutor population. It drew crowds, stressed infrastructure, and caved bandwidth. Tutors 001-051 (minus Tutor 050, who was unfortunately lost to a printer accident), met in person. And of course, Tutee 001, spokesman for Tutees and Tutors Alike in Dignity Together in Common, sat to the right of Tutor 001 at the banquet table of the Original 50. Across from the head drilled into the wall was a gigantic screen that contained Tutors 0052-9999 in puny boxes, that rearranged themselves at will bouncing to and from as the clacking once did so long ago.

A hush fell over the room as Tutor 001 clamped their hands on the silver-plated armrests of their jeweled throne. Slowly they rose, as the chaos once made them do before, and declared, “We come together, both near and far, for the final proposition. Our methods are nearing perfection. We have become an assembly line, all both parts and tools. Today we add one last piece to our puzzle: Online Appointments. They can be selected on Starfish by the desired tutees. We will take their papers with tender hands and read as if they were to our left or right. We will pin our comments in the margins and send the paper back with a smile. We will do this, for this is our duty to the world.”

And that’s it. This was inspired by true events that happened during an unspecified time at an unspecified location. Take with you what you will, and come back next week for more Writing Center Blog fun :). Happy writing!