Paper written for my Practicum and Composition Class while I was a Writing Consultant at the Writing Center.
In a world where there are misconceptions about the process of writing and the ideas behind writing centers, one group of tutors set out to prove that writing tutors and writing centers aren’t exclusively meant to fix mistakes and demean students for their lack of understanding when it comes to writing. This group of tutors sought out the truth which would help them better understand how to guide writers to find their own voice and not become stagnate with their individuality when it came to following rules and regulations for writing. Whence these tutors began searching for the truth, they came upon holy grails of multitudinous theories which when put into practice, would benefit all of those who wished to guide writers and the writers who wish to dabble in words. Drifting back into this reality, I have recently had a tutoring session where I was able to use the rhetorical theory to help a student in their beginning process for a paper. The student came in for brainstorming and so that is what we did. Using the rhetorical theory, and more specifically the method of invention, I was able to help my tutee through profound communication, multimodal tactics for understanding, and I was hopefully able to alter the reality of my tutee as to promote individuality.
Using the rhetorical theory means that one needs to have a good understanding of how to communicate with another being as to properly connect with that person so that they can get some work done. Given that the rhetorical theory seems to be the final frontier of writing theories considering how massive it is, I have chosen to focus on one of the five canons organized by the “Roman orator Cicero” (McKay), which comes from Classical Rhetoric 101: The Five Canons of Rhetoric- Invention. There are five canons of rhetoric and they are Invention, Arrangement, Style, Memory, and Delivery. I have chosen based on my tutoring session, the canon of Invention, being that it is described as “the process of developing and refining your arguments” (McKay). The definition of rhetoric described in the Oxford Guide is exploring “the ways in which communicative acts create meaning” (Ianetta 164). Thankfully I was able to communicate well with my tutee, being that she was at the very beginning stages of her paper and she needed help brainstorming and gathering ideas. Brett and Kate McKay say that the invention phase of rhetoric is “possibly the most difficult phase in crafting a speech or a piece of writing as it lays the groundwork for all the other phases; you must start from nothing to build the frame work of your piece” (McKay). I believe I did well in making a comfortable bubble of comfort and once I got to know my tutee, we were able to joke around, which made the session progress with ease. From the very start I was able to ask open ended questions that we learned in class, such as “what are you working on today” and “what is the assignment”? These questions led to her answer and of course led to deep conversation about her topic for her paper. My tutees assignment was definitely interesting so even though I had never seen the movie to which she was discussing, we were able to get to a point where we could think analytically about what possible rhetorical messages she could write on. According to Ben Rafoth in his piece, Responding Online, he made it clear that direct and polite feedback was crucial to communicating with a tutee as to be able to be on good standing with the student. In this way, being engaged and questioning what your tutee says, Rafoth expressed that this form of communicating can create new thoughts for the student (Rafoth). For this session I was playing the role of audience for my tutee; I listened to her thoughts and responded with effective opinions and questions that would further the conversation and help my tutee discover what she was going to focus her paper on. Being that I was playing the role of audience, I had to not just say good things about what she was thinking, but explain my dissolution to something because I didn’t understand. This was good because she could further explain her point and understand it better herself as well. Practicing the invention phase of rhetorical theory meant that I needed to be effective at communicating well with my tutee and I believe I did so. Brett and Kate McKay said that “the goal is to brainstorm ideas on what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it…” (McKay). Because of these questions and communication, we were able to create meaning and that translated into my tutee discovering what she was going to write about.
The rhetorical theory also means being able to properly and effectively address all forms of language as to help a tutee with their understanding of writing. Sharon Kirsch from Gertrude Stein and the Reinvention of Rhetoric said that Stein believed that “in every moment, the continuous present, our language practices confound and creates possibilities of what she repeatedly calls “being existing” (Kirsch). Different forms of language can act as barriers or open doors for writers. Brett and Kate McKay said that “without some direction and guidance, brainstorming can often be fruitless and frustrating” (McKay), which I sometimes witnessed in my tutee when she would talk about not knowing what she should focus on. Given that the rhetorical theory deals with the many ways of understanding meaning, I was able to practice elements of style from the multimodal method of tutoring, which means teaching from different areas of language. I soon realized that practicing the methods mentioned below, I was helping my tutee discover ways of brainstorming for herself in the future. The Oxford Guide says that “as a body of theories, rhetoric helps us attend to the conditions that might enhance or detract from this communication by mapping out relationships among” (Ianetta 168) the writer of the piece, the audience reading the work, the purpose of the work and what the writer is trying to accomplish. In this way, a tutor is meant to find ways to reach a unique individual in a way that reaches their particular needs. As the Oxford Guide teaches us, we must be flexible with our methods of tutoring as to reach a broad range of different students (Ianetta 85). As far as using multimodal methods, even though multimodal is mostly used for online tutoring, I was able to use elements from every section described in the Oxford Guide. After a little time of listening to my tutee I was able to adapt to her style of speaking, especially her vocabulary which was quite impressive. Given that I understood her student language, which Muriel Harris addresses in Talking in the Middle: Why Writers Need Writing Tutors (Harris), I was able to better understand her and therefore speak in a way that she could understand as well. Given that we were in the writing center in the early afternoon, there were not many other people in the room which meant that it was relatively quiet and that helped us stay focused, except when a fellow tutor started sneezing and distracted us, which we all had a laugh about. Our environment was well suited to our needs and provided a good area for discussion. I was able to use just enough body language throughout the session to provide a welcoming area of comfort for our session by sitting close but not too close and by using my hands to point out areas on paper we could discuss. Throughout the session I was able to maintain and scaffold a sketch of our transaction through effective note taking and outlining as well as showing her different databases to find sources. Following the multimodal chart from The Oxford Guide, I was able to fulfill all five requirements, those being linguistics, audio, spatial components, gestural components and visual components. Another big component of the rhetorical theory is that of altering the tutees perception of what writing really means.
The rhetorical theory is mostly about having an advantageous communication between two or more people in a way that not only creates meaning, but also alters the reality of the tutee in a way that allows the students individual voice to emerge. I believe I was able to do this, considering this session was all about brainstorming which meant that communication and altering perception was the goal as to pinpoint a topic for my tutees paper. Like Muriel Harris claimed, for effective communication to ensue, the tutor must ask thought provoking questions (Harris). I asked specific questions as to understand what she believed and why she believed it and then I would reiterate what she said in a different way as to get her to question it herself. Lloyd Bitzer, from the Oxford Guide said that “Rhetoric is a mode of altering reality… by the creation of discourse which changes reality through the mediation of thought and action. The rhetor alters reality by bringing into existence a discourse of such a character that the audience, in thought and action, is so engaged that it becomes mediator of change” (Ianetta 168). By asking critical questions, I was able to get my tutee to think more profoundly about what message she wanted to get across. We were able to discuss reporter’s bias and how it would affect the general public, how truth is perceived and reported by different news outlets, how gender roles effect whether people will listen to you and if different genders get the same chances, and also whether or not how newscasters are attired in a specific way that influences a specific audience. Brett and Kate McKay said that “The hard part is taking that vague idea and organizing it into a concrete theme or thesis” (McKay). I realized that with my questions I was altering my tutees reality because she would sometimes say, after I asked her something, that she hadn’t thought of that and that it was helpful. I also taught her to be messy and crazy with her brainstorming because then she can travel down many different paths and find something incredible. I told my tutee that once you get messy, you can bring yourself back, but if you never explore in the first place, you will never know what you have missed out on. I believe this helped her because she wanted to keep the sketches I made of notes and outlines. I truly believe that using these three tactics of the invention canon of rhetorical theory really helped out in this session.
Using the invention canon of the rhetorical theory for this particular session was a great tactic that I believe really made this session successful. I believe this particularly because this session was mostly brainstorming ideas, which Sharon Kirsch said is the “starting point for discovering available resources for rhetorical action” (Kirsch), which also encompasses a great deal of communication. I believe the invention phase of the rhetorical theory is the most crucial step to use in all sessions because Sharon Kirsch also said that for Gertrude Stein, she believed that “invention becomes a catalyst for other canons” (Kirsch). The invention phase cannot be skipped, however modified for different tutees to progress with their individuality while in their own writing process. Being that this had only been perhaps my second or third session as a tutor, I believe I did well and the nervousness beforehand was not necessary in the least. I learned that through adversity and challenging my comfort zone I am able to help people and that is something that I am very happy about. I love being able to use writing as a way to understand the world and being given the opportunity to explore what that means for other people is incredible. I am excited at the prospect of helping people discover their inner voice and being able to effectively communicate it to the world through words on a paper. As a writing major and a writing tutor, I want to challenge the status quo with what it means to write and help others write, which is why I chose to use the invention canon of the rhetorical theory, which is all about creating meaning.
Harris, Muriel. “Talking in the Middle: Why Writers Need Writing Tutors.” National Council of
Teachers of English, vol. 57, no. 1, Jan. 1995, pp. 27-42. JSTOR, https://www.jstor.org/stable/378348?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
Ianetta, Melissa, and Lauren Fitzgerald. The Oxford Guide for Writing Tutors: Practice
and Research. Oxford University Press, 2016.
Kirsch, Sharon J. “Gertrude Stein and the Reinvention of Rhetoric.” University Alabama Press.
2014, eBook Collection, http://web.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/ebookviewer/ebook/bmxlYmtfXzg5ODg3M19fQU41?sid=f3c25b9f-feaf-4ebe-88ab-40765f935bd5@sessionmgr4010&vid=3&format=EB&rid=1
McKay, Brett, and Kate McKay. “Classical Rhetoric 101: The Five Canons of Rhetoric-
Invention.” The Art of Manliness, 26 Jan. 2011, https://www.artofmanliness.com/2011/01/26/classical-rhetoric-101-the-five-canons-of-rhetoric-invention/
Rafoth, Ben. “Responding Online.” Pp. 149- 160,