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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rocking at Life

I absolutely adore working with ESL students. They are hardworking, refreshingly curious, and can easily take constructive criticism, unlike many native English-speakers (myself included). One of the main reasons that I decided to apply for an internship in our center here at Boise State was that I would have the chance to work with ESL students. As someone who has had first hand experience in being a stranger in a strange land, I have a special appreciation for the struggles ESL students go through. All that to say, I thoroughly admire them.
I've only worked a couple of months in the writing center, and already I've got a couple of "regulars"--that is to say, I see them a lot more often than I see other students. Both have been living in the U.S. for a few years, and have a fairly strong command of spoken English. When I first started meeting with them, I was a little overwhelmed. Their papers were riddled with errors, and I wasn't even sure where to begin. My obsessive-compulsive drive to edit would flare up, and I would have to tear the pencil from my hand and replace it in the holder in order to stop myself from doing a sentence-by-sentence editing job. This seemed, in the beginning, however, to be what each student expected and desired. I took a suggestion from a fellow consultant and tried to break out of the habit. As I had more sessions with each student, I found various ways that I could put them in control of the session. For one, who was an international student, it was as simple as putting a pencil and a pad of paper in front of her and asking her how she would re-construct a particular sentence. For the other, who was a refugee and hadn't learned any English in her home country, talking it out and using specific examples worked best. After some sessions, I would have to berate myself for editing too much, but thankfully, I've learned to tell exactly when I need to put the pencil down.
Yesterday, I had my first real "SUCCESS!" moment. When one of the "regulars" came in to see me, I was able to think back and compare the paper in front of me with the one she had come in with the first day I met with her, two months ago. It was drastically different. She had used more sophisticated words and more complex sentence structure, and was a heck of a lot more organized and coherent than she had been in the beginning. I kept looking at her with awe during the session, and eventually said, "Dude, you seriously rock at life." I don't think she completely understood what I was saying, but she smiled like I'd just given her a medal. I like to think that maybe she gained a little bit more confidence in her writing that day.

2 comments:

  1. Nice job. I have a couple ESL regulars, and I'm looking forward to the day (if it comes)when they come in, show me a new paper, and rock the living hell out of articles and determiners.

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  2. Nice job Sara!!! "Dude, you totally rock at life" sounds like something you would say. And even if the student didn't fully comprehend it, I'm sure the universal language of enthusiasm conveyed the message. ;)

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