The Writing Center makes its debut


Katrina Arsky

Writing Center tutor junior Portia Pliam discusses a paper with junior Eden Weitzman. The Writing Center is now open to help students with writing assignments in all subjects at any point in the writing process. Marie Godderis.

By Janie Dent and Parisa Larson

The Writing Center opened its doors for the first time to students on September 17. Unlike the school’s Tutorial Center that offers general tutoring in a variety of subjects, the Writing Center’s staff of 13 trained tutors specializes solely in giving students individual writing guidance at any stage of the writing process. This type of help is becoming especially relevant because of the growing prevalence of writing in all courses, not just English class.

“I’ve noticed we are asking students to do a lot more writing than we ever have [before],” Writing Center Coordinator and English teacher Caitlin Hannon said. “A lot of that is because of the Common Core [standards], but we have students who are writing a lot in math, science, history and English— writing really across the curriculum.”

Writing centers are commonly found on university campuses but are rare at high schools. For this reason, Hannon created one for Los Altos so that students could get specific writing help from their own peers. To prepare student tutors, Hannon conducted a four-week-long training course at the beginning of the year to teach them how to confidently provide high-quality feedback.

“We talk about what makes good writing, the writing process, how to give good feedback, how to be mentors, how to give supportive feedback and how to create a place on campus where students will want to come to get feedback,” Hannon said. “Writing is hard, and giving feedback on writing is hard.”

Since it opened this year, the Writing Center has garnered positive feedback. Junior Justin Kasso believes that his experience receiving help at the Writing Center was valuable since the tutors gave him helpful advice on his assignment.

“I feel that my time was spent wisely, and I was able to get a good amount of my essay edited by their peer tutors,” Justin said. “I think the Writing Center is a vital resource that should be used by more students to get help on their essays because of how helpful their peer tutors are when editing essays.”

Although students may be hesitant to visit at first, Writing Center tutor junior Portia Pliam believes it is a useful resource.

“I understand that it can be really vulnerable saying, ‘Yeah, I need help with my writing,'” Portia said. “[But] for me, it’s [actually] really helpful to talk out loud about my ideas.”

Hannon expands on the idea that students may have a hard time admitting that they need help with their writing, but she hopes that the Writing Center can create an environment where students are willing to get support.

“I think it’s cool to have somewhere else on campus where you can go to enjoy writing or spend more time on it,” Hannon said. “Writing is really hard [but] I think having a place where people can come and they feel safe and comfortable being vulnerable in their writing is a really healthy thing. I hope we can create that feeling.”

The Writing Center is open in the library on Mondays and Wednesdays after school. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, it is open during 7th period in room 401.