This past Wednesday, I was able to observe Matt in a consultation with a student writing a personal narrative essay for his English 102 class.
The student agreed readily to allow me to sit in, and he seemed very calm being in the Writing Center. I did not get the feeling from him that he felt he "had to be there." I felt that he was simply looking for some valuable guidance in a professional, yet comfortable atmosphere (of course, I hope these were the things that the writer was thinking in coming to the Center ^_^).
His essay was mostly complete, but was lacking an ending. The writer's main concern was that the essay just needed "to end already" and he was afraid of dragging out the ending, even though there was still a lot of crucial information in his narrative to potentially cover.
I was surprised at how quickly 20 out of those 30 minutes went by! Matt read the paper aloud while our writer sat back and was able to hear his own tone throughout his paper. It was a rather excellent narrative if I'm allowed to say so, and Matt read it enthusiastically yet seriously. In having the essay read out loud, the writer as able to also identify some tense issues brought up in the paper, and was then able to apply the correct tenses throughout his paper when appropriate.
Body-language-wise, Matt was facing the writer, both feet on the floor, and giving him confident yet un-intimidating eye contact that seemed to me to just be saying "I'm listening and I'm engaged." (wow, that was cheesy, but that was what went down.)
While Matt was encouraging in his feedback where necessary, he didn't ever tell the writer exactly what to do. He asked the writer what he thinks would work better and still let him keep the integrity of his original ideas.
Matt pretty much had the paper in his hands the whole time, maybe seeming to kind of take the load off of the writer a little bit, and truly letting the paper be seen from someone else's perspective without the writer's physical attachment to this probably mentally-heavy piece of paper. I felt like that was significant somehow...simply Matt holding the paper so our writer can get it off of his hands for just a little bit.
Matt also marked up the paper where he saw fit (such as with the inconsistent tense issues) and was able to I think let our student come to his own conclusion about how to finish up his paper concisely but without missing any information vital to his narrative. I was sort of impressed. Of course though, I'd imagine that this was a relatively easy consultation. For one, the writer was extremely at ease in the writing center, had already written a mostly-solid paper, wasn't rushed for his deadline, and was all-around polite, alert and attentive to Matt's comments and questions. He seemed to trust Matt as a consultant, where Matt could also trust him as a writer. This consultation was very fluid, and very successful, and dare-I-say-it: fun!? Yes, it was enjoyable to have it go so smoothly. Plus, the writer already seemed to have a good grammatical knowledge, so when Matt would say something about "person" or "tense" issues, the writer knew exactly what was meant.
This consultation was the most helpful to me I think because I was able to, for one, see how quickly time gets eaten up in a session! Also, to see how Matt was friendly and engaging from the get-go with body language, facial expression, tone of voice, eye contact, etc. He showed himself as an encouraging person open to helping the writer with any potential concerns. Matt complimented the writer's paper where it was appropriate (the writer did have great usage of onomatopoeia) and was animated and interested throughout.
Although time went quickly, Matt didn't even glance at the time until the session was almost over, which I thought would be really important to a writer visiting the center. No one wants to think that their time is being counted down by their consultant. I know time is an important issue, but I'm pretty sure we do not want our visiting writers to feel that we are thinking about it too much. There are realistic time constraints though, sure, as well as a realistic amount of progress to make in a single consultation. I just don't think the writer should feel the time breathing down their necks, and I think Matt handled this issue of fleeting consultation time very gracefully and comfortably. Again though, I'm sure there are consultations that by nature, cannot go quite this smoothly. I look forward to next week!