Asking for Help, or: An Ode to the APA Manual

APA 6th Edition

My professional hat is emblazoned with “Student Learning Coordinator, Writing & Academic Skills” and my personal hat reads “Writer of the Never Ending Thesis.” Between these two hats, both are jaunty fascinators à la Duchess Kate BTW, I do a lot of writing.  However, this blog post threw me for a loop.  This is its fifth incarnation.  I wrote one about inter-departmental collaborations and pitched it for being too cheesy; another one was about today’s student experience but it met the trash can for being a little too manifesto-ish.  It would seem that although I write every day, I have trouble finding my voice outside of a style guide.

First, a quick shout out to my good friend APA (MLA and CMS: you know where we stand).  This guide provides the rules and expectations of scholarly writing.  It is detailed, thorough, easy-to-use, and what it lacks in punchy one-liners, it makes up for with accepted conventions.  Want to know what an APA title page looks like? Check page 41.  Curious about spacing after punctuation? Page 87 has it covered.  That said, the American Psychological Association offered no opinion on my SLT WordPress entry.

A blog should be engaging, professional, funny, and relevant.  It should “go viral” immediately after hitting the submit button. Right?  This is a little insight into the pressure I put on myself for this particular piece of writing.  I didn’t have my trusty spiral bound APA manual to rely on so I had to ask for help.  Let’s face it, asking for help with writing when writing is what you do All. Day. Long. is a little bit humbling. It’s humbling in much the same way asking for help with academics can be for a student.

A lot of things remind me of my students and my first foray into blog writing is no exception.  Just as no one other than me was expecting me to be nominated for a Bloggie Award (it’s a thing) on my first attempt, no one is expecting students to be published in an academic journal with their first essay.  We try our best and make use of feedback and other learning opportunities.  Among my “other learning opportunities” are my personal and professional support systems, and I am among the “other learning opportunities” for my students.  “Other learning opportunities” are part of the student experience and part of the life-after-school experience.  The trouble with “other learning opportunities” is that you sometimes have to go outside your comfort zone to access them.

When I consider the amount of effort it took me to ask for help on this blog, I even more clearly see the importance of quality support programming.  When a student makes the decision to ask for help from me or a peer educator, they have to walk away feeling like their honest request for help has been honoured.