Malvern introduces new Learning Center for writing

Through the initiative of Suzanne Sweeney and the rest of the English department, the creation of the writing center has been a success so far in the goal to help students enhance their writing skills.

Luke Gueriera, Contributor

Through the ever changing and advancing nature of Malvern, a new resource has been developed in order to aid students in their academics, while utilizing Malvern’s foundational goal for its students – brotherhood. The launch of the new learning center for writing has already proven effective in its early stages, with continued optimism from its creator, Ms. Suzanne Sweeney.

“I was inspired by my old school’s very successful writing center through the dilemma I saw at Malvern, where English teachers have to read and proofread, over 60 essays maybe 3 times – its a lot to handle,” Berlacher said when asked about how the idea for the writing center surfaced. “Malvern has a lot of strong and willing students to help create this support for the center and get it off the ground.”

Berlacher went about the process of opening the writing center by removing a common problem most teachers have when attempting to open a tutoring center, which is the availability and training of student tutors. 

“This is how my Writing Seminar class was born. Students are being trained to tutor properly and how to navigate through certain problems, and part of the curriculum is the tutoring itself,” she said.

Something contributing to the success of the center so early on, is mainly the student tutors’ connection amongst classmates, whether that’s from the youngest sixth grader to the oldest senior, making it more comfortable for everyone involved. 

“Students would go to peers before going to their teacher for help in case they are nervous and don’t want to show their teachers a fresh product.” Berlacher said. 

Writing Seminar students feel similarly about the dynamic of the center and its continued  development  to help student writers.

“Here’s the thing about the writing center, it’s 100% beneficial, especially with mainly student tutors. The different point of view of a student who has recently learned this curriculum can help someone differently than a teacher who has been doing this for years,” said junior Writing Seminar student and tutor, Breck Lotz. 

Senior Andrew Ragaglia, tutor and Writing Seminar student said, “The student connection will make things more comfortable and helpful because you are able to relate easier to a fellow classmate than a teacher.”

Although on the surface a seamless process and experience, there have been difficulties along the way for everyone involved. 

“Planning the writing center has had a lot of moving parts, although with tons of support from the Malvern leadership and the English department, this entire project was created from scratch, making it very time consuming and complex,” Berlacher said. 

Within the center itself, speed bumps have occurred with the finer details of tutoring.

“One of the issues is finding that balance between actually helping and not just rewriting by putting your own style into their work, although you technically may be making it better,” Ragaglia said. 

“Some students are shy, making it hard to connect and communicate with, so acting like their friend instead of their teacher can make the conversation flow easier. Another challenge has  been dialing your knowledge down to an eight grade level in order to help them with the information they know,” Lotz said. 

With primarily eight grade students receiving the tutoring right now, it presents challenges as well as a great opportunity to help younger Malvern brothers whilst figuring out the logistics of the center. Eight grade English teacher, Ms. Metty Vithayathil, along with her students, have been very enthusiastic about the launch.

“The leadership from the upperclassmen are providing not only a social aspect, but a different academic point of view for the eight graders. Here they have another layer of feedback not just from me, creating more opportunities for students to improve their writing,” said Vithayathil.

When asked about difficulty surrounding the process, Vithayathil said, “COVID is obviously limiting free time in the day and the one on one encounters are the crucial piece of this aside from just editing a piece of paper alone.”  

All in all, the writing center has high hopes and achievable goals for its tutors and students and although brand new, the center will continue to expand through Sweeney and Malvern’s leadership. 

“Although COVID has provided setbacks, the writing center is expecting to open its own official room for tutoring in 2021,” Berlacher said. 

“If you are struggling with your writing or even just need help with a prompt, I can say plainly to reach out and get a writing tutor. This different viewpoint and academic will absolutely help enhance your writing abilities now and in the future,” Lotz said. 

Mrs. Suzanne Sweeney-Berlacher, in addition to leading the Writing Center, is a moderator for the Friar’s Lantern.