So, this is my first entry in my blog. I’m getting a late start, but better late than never, right? So far, this semester has been a real adventure in the writing center. I remember my first day—I had no idea what I was supposed to do. I was scared of consultations (even if I was just sitting in, of course). But I quickly got used to consultations, and threw away my shy-and-scared set of mind.
The one thing I did feel confident about when I started was a consultation with an ELL student, but I didn’t get one right away. In fact, I just had my first a little over a month ago. I think the only reason I felt so confident was because I’ve had experience working with ELL students at the International Programs Office on campus (where I work), but at the office, I never worked with their writing with them. It was more difficult than I thought.
The first appointment I had with an ELL student was very grammar-and-punctuation oriented. I tried my best to explain each rule, and he seemed to understand everything I was saying—but that’s the problem with grammar and punctuation. What if the student doesn’t really understand why, but just pretends to, for fear of feeling stupid otherwise? What if, when I say, “Does that make sense?” they don’t get it, but say “yes,” anyway? And that goes for all students, not just ELL students.
Whenever I’d offer other suggestions for his paper, he seemed to lack the confidence, in writing them into the paper, himself. I think he was smarter than he gave himself credit for, and he felt self-conscience about his writing. Honestly, I don’t think I was nearly as helpful as I could’ve been. But I also think that he only wanted help with grammar and punctuation, and nothing else. I’ve noticed that when a writer only wants help with something in particular, it’s best to focus on that thing; often times, they won’t want to focus on anything else.
So, maybe my first consultation with an ELL student wasn’t the best, but after that, I knew what to look for. I stopped thinking of them as “ELL students,” and started thinking of them as “students,” because there really isn’t much of a difference. The second time I had an ELL student, I did the best I could to help her out with some revisions she was doing. Two weeks later, she came back to the writing center, and set another appointment with me. She remembered me and told me that I had really helped her last time. It felt really awesome to hear that, because sometimes I wonder if I’m as helpful as I think I am.