Dr. Mark Burke, BA(Hons)’03, is the writing coach for FYP students. He was once a student in the program and later a FYP tutor.
Allison Lawlor, FYP’94, has been the journalism writing coach this past semester. Lawlor was recently shortlisted for the 2019-2020 Hackmatack Children’s Choice Book Awards for her book Broken Pieces. She has worked at newspapers and magazines in different areas around Canada.
Here are there share some of their experiences and wisdom they’ve gleaned from working one-on-one with King’s students.
They feel like they have to come very prepared for our meetings…So, I would just tell them that they don’t need to feel like that at all. One of the main things I do with students is talk about their ideas for writing.
When they first come see me, they typically think the position is really about helping them write better sentences or working on grammatical issues and things like that—which I do help students with, but in my experience the biggest transition that they experience from high school to university has nothing to do with that…The big transition involves the focus on argumentation and the clear presentation of a structured paper.
They care. I’ve taught at other schools, larger schools, and I think one of the biggest differences here is not only do the students care but they talk about what they are learning in a serious way. It’s very rare you see a King’s student who is not really into or passionate about what they are doing.
Not in this position now, but I’ve certainly received papers when I was a teaching fellow at King’s that I thought were well beyond undergraduate level. I’ve seen papers that could have easily been published in graduate journals. I have seen excellent work.
I used to be a teaching fellow here and… one thing that differentiates my current position from that position is it’s totally non-judgemental. I’m not grading them in anyway. I feel like when students know that my only job is to help them, period, not to evaluate them, that makes a big difference.
Write the way you talk.
Learning how to tighten up. Getting rid of unnecessary words. Making writing as concise as possible.
They’re going to have me, their professors, and their tutors give them different ideas. They’ve got to listen to those, but they have to also have to have the confidence to know this is their story and they make the decisions. So, I like to see that.
I’ve been paid to write for 20 years or more and I need editors. I need people to read my work and point out things that need to be improved. So, I don’t think you ever get to the point where you have a perfect paper.
It can be just for a student to come once, but it really works if a student comes several times over the course of the term or the year. They have that one-on-one attention, so you’re just going to see more improvement that way…Writing is a craft and you can always improve.