By: Elizabeth Busekrus
Here is the first blog post on the Writing Space! My blog posts are going to relate to tutoring, writing, and rhetoric and ways that students can apply what they learn in a tutoring session to their future writings and their writing processes. Enjoy!
Kairos is a Greek term that is actually undefinable in the English language. It can be interpreted in a number of ways. It is the pivotal moment of a tutoring session. It is known as the point of tension and the opportune moment. It is the moment of “aha,” of enlightenment, and of movement. Let me set up this theoretical idea in terms of a tutoring session. A student comes to the Writing Lab with a research paper in hand. She has written a couple of paragraphs on the importance of exercise. We start discussing the body parts involved in exercise and the different types of exercise. We gear on cardiovascular exercise and then on running. We discuss the oxygen intake involved, the glycogen process, and the physicality of it. Then, I ask her, “Do you run?” She responds with a “yes,” and I respond back with “Why?”
She becomes animated about analyzing the motivations behind why she runs. This discussion into the psychological side of running creates a strong and narrowed topic for her essay. Kairos occurred during this session, when the questioning and discussion process began to move the session in a different and insightful direction.
Why is kairos such an important topic to discuss? How do you cause kairos to occur? There is no easy answer to these questions, but let’s take a look at what would happen if kairos was absent in a session and what spurs kairos to happen. Every tutoring session is different from the next because every student has different beliefs and backgrounds (personally and within the context of writing). However, tutors have certain ways that they approach tutoring sessions, and these formulas can sometimes inhibit kairos. I usually start with greeting the student, asking them what they would like to work on, and going through the essay in a chronological fashion with this certain lens. Following every step of this tutoring formula can debilitate creative moments, especially if the student or I are not willing to diverge from the plan of action.
This structure also does not show a realistic writing process, which can often be chaotic rather than linear. The writing process should encourage students to deepen their thoughts about their essay topic and their identities as writers. Doing so involves stepping away from the idea that there is one correct way to write an essay or one correct way to form a tutoring session.
Kairos is oftentimes a result of the circumstances. It is not a matter of chance, but if the student’s core concern is “I need to focus on fixing the grammatical errors in this essay,” kairos may not occur. Recognizing these places (the beliefs, values, attitudes, and background of the student) is a step in the right direction though. When the student and the tutor are both aware of where the student stands, they can practice shifting those places. Reevaluating their places (not just within the paper but within themselves as writers) can bring about a moment of ingenuity, movement, meaning, and creativity: also known as, kairos.
Kairos can happen within the writing process too. Think upon the following kairos-related questions as you write a story, poem, essay, or other piece of writing:
1. How do I relate to this topic (personally, culturally, academically, etc.)? What are some preconceived ideas about this topic and why do I believe these things?
2. What are some of the common perspectives people have about this topic? How can I think about this topic in a new way? What is a lens, approach, or a metaphor that I can use to guide this writing?