Mr. T, the bilingual
I observed a session in the Student Writing Center at Salt Lake Community College involving a bilingual student whom I will refer to as "T." This is partly because of confidentiality and partly because I can't remember his real name, let alone how to spell it.
T informed the tutor I was observing that he was raised here in the U.S. but was taught both English and Vietnamese in his home. The paper he was working on was a rhetorical analysis for his English 1010 class, and he seemed very open to corrections and ideas.
Because time was limited, the tutor asked if she could read his four-page paper silently to herself instead of having him read it aloud. T agreed and she began her reading, all the while making numerous notes on the paper and grammatical corrections where necessary.
As I watched him during this process, I saw his eyes become wide and afraid, his body stiffened, and he had the general demeanor of someone about to be executed. He watched as the tutor wrote all over his paper, circling words, drawing arrows, and underlining phrases or whole sentences. I could tell he was feeling overwhelmed and uncomfortable having his writing undergo such scrutiny.
When she had finished reading she started giving him feedback and eventually narrowed in down to two major things he could work on to greatly improve his paper. This experience just really emphasized to me how important it can be to let the writer take ownership of their work and read even just part of it out loud to the tutor. Hearing their own writing can help writers catch their own grammatical errors and awkward sentence structure and even some of those larger problems with organization or content. I think that helps them feel a lot more in control of their own writing.
I think T left feeling alright, but I don't know that he'll come back to the writing center soon if he thinks he'll have that same experience every time.