The Writing Center Brings New Experiences

I knew coming into this semester that I would be faced with challenges and many new experiences. Starting my internship with the Writing Center would guarantee it. I anticipated meeting new people, interacting with peers in a different way than in class, and stretching myself between 19 credits, a part time job, and a dog named Lucy who requires constant my- hand-to-her-head contact.

My biggest concern coming into the Writing Center was assisting ESL and ELL students. In E303, I have paid great attention to discussions that center around this topic and struggled to believe whether I am qualified to help these students or not. Interestingly enough, my very first hour observing in the Writing Center I sat down with Melissa, a seasoned tutor and Tom, an ESL student. How serendipitous.

Tom, a junior standing marketing major, brought in a memo for his Business Comm class. Mostly concerned with sentence construction and grammar, Melissa began by reading the assignment sheet provided by the prof. She then had the student read his two page, handwritten memo aloud. Afterwards, she pointed out a few areas where the sentences didn't agree or wording sounded awkward.

Most times, Tom eagerly interrupted Melissa to correct his errors. For instance Melissa said "The word people is plural so..." Tom quickly chimed in "so it should be 'are', not is!". Sitting opposite Tom at the desk taking notes, I felt a sense of pride. I was proud of him for learning this second language that I take for granted. I mentally noted his junior standing and acknowledged his efforts to gain a degree in a language base other than his native one. It also reminded me of my time learning French. I suddenly didn't feel so separated from ESL/ELL students.

After Tom left, I went to enter his information into the WC database. His native language is Norwegian. His ethnicity is Asian. What challenges he faces daily in this English university. He conquers daily too, from what I saw.


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  2. Hi Jen,

    Your observation seems to have made you more comfortable with the idea of tutoring an ESL/ELL student. That's great! It sounds like you connected with the ELL student on the level of being a student and understanding the challeges of learning a new language. Do you think the session you observed differed notably from other sessions with students who use English as a first language?

    The session I observed with Zachery and an ESL/ELL student did seem to differ in some ways. It was interesting because communication was a different type of challenge. However, Zachery employed several effective strategies which could be put to use in any session. Zachery often repeated what the student said to make sure that he understood correctly, and continually built on his understanding by asking questions. He referred to past consultations he had had with this student, which showed his genuine interest in the student AND reminded the student of concepts and grammar rules. He also got right to the point and spoke plainly. Zachery paid attention to the student's tone and expression and was able to sense when he needed more clarification.

    I'm sure that every ESL/ELL session varies greatly depending on the student and the task, but I also feel more comfortable with the idea of tutoring an ESL/ELL student after observing a session.
    (Thanks, Zach!)


  3. Jen,

    Isn't it odd how just watching others learn makes us feel proud?


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