I just finished Jane Cogie's "ESL Studend Participation in Writing Center Sessions" form the Writing Center Journal and something she wrote really struck me. She made a point that ESL student's need more time to process infomation in order to learn. That tutors need to be patient with ESL students so that they can actively participate in their learning. I completely agree with this - the problem is that with 30 min or 1 hour sessions we often have barely enough time to cover one issue they want to discuss. Last week an ESL student came in who had worked with another tutor a day or so before. The tutor had only had enough time to go through a little more than one page of the students assignment. The student asked me in our session to help her find areas to expand her paper. We spent the entire hour working on this and then when we were just about out of time, she asked about the grammar issues. Of course, we didn't have enough time to work anything else so I felt really bad that I wasn't able to help her. Luckily, she had another appt already set up with another tutor.
I often feel frustrated after a session with an ESL student because of the time contstraints. Most ESL students seem to want help with grammar, and rightly so as this is a learning process for them; but, the time needed to really go over some of these concepts is not available in most tutoring sessions. I wonder if we should be automatically asking ESL students if they want to make another appointment. I have seen several ESL students who continually work with the same tutor week after week and I think that is ideal, but too often this does not happen.
I tend to have this need to fix everything, my mother calls it the "Mother Hen" syndrome. I just think that we could be doing more for ESL students. Maybe we just need to get the word out that an hour appt is better than a half hour when there are language issues. Of course, how do you do that without it coming across in a negative light?