Time is flying like crazy. It’s really freaking me out actually…
This week, I observed my first session with an ESL student. I don’t know how it took so long for me to finally observe this, but I found it really enjoyable! The main thing I noticed was how much it made me look at English as it really is, and how it must be broken down to someone laying fresh eyes on it.
English is freaky.
The session was with Kelsey and an economics major writing a paper that was fairly short in scope; it was a chapter summary and analysis, reaching just about two pages. The writer was very insecure in her usages of articles (or lack thereof), because in her first language, there are no articles at all. Dissecting where articles go, and which ones and why, really brought to my attention how daunting English must be for someone who was not raised speaking it frequently or at all.
Kelsey read through the whole paper slowly, stopping every time she noticed something that needed to be altered. With the paper directly between the writer and Kelsey, both of them could look on and really take in the words with clarity. The writer seeing what Kelsey was seeing at the exact same time was I’m sure extremely helpful in her understanding of why Kelsey stopped in the places that she did, and marked up the paper (lightly and in pencil) accordingly. Every time the writer said something especially notable in the paper, Kelsey always reinforced her good work.
The writer was very sweet and eager to learn, making this a very smooth and I’m sure rewarding session for Kelsey. Kelsey would always not only explain where articles belonged and which ones, but she went very in depth as to why, and I think the writer really understood.
Throughout the session too, the writer began to see her own mistakes concerning articles and capitalizations as well, as the paper was being read aloud before Kelsey could stop and point out the mistakes.
Then, (ninja move!) Kelsey shifted the writer’s attention from articles, her original concern in the paper, to how she could make her conclusion more powerful. By this point, the writer was all-ears, happy to have had her article issues addressed smoothly, kindly and sufficiently. The writer jotted down notes to herself on the margins around the final paragraph as she took in Kelsey’s suggestions.
Of the articles that we read this past week, I found “Talk to Me” to be extremely useful for all of us as consultants. The fact that the article highlights how different we all (consultants and writers) are as human beings really brings strength to the point that we truly cannot know why anyone acts or responds the way that they do without knowing them. While a writer may appear to be stubborn or unwilling to participate, he or she may just be painfully shy. For all we know, being in the Writing Center, and talking to this new person (the consultant) could be causing a writer a tremendous amount of anxiety. We just do not know another person, and cannot (hard as it may be to resist) make assumptions about what their body language, tone of voice, interest or lack of interest, or word choice really means.
I thought it very interesting that the article actually suggests that we may let a student go if they truly do not want to be in the Center, because this just ensures that the writer feels completely in control. I like this idea, but I like Melissa’s idea even more of seeing it as a “challenge.” Sounds exhausting, but rewarding.
The group activities in class were especially fun this time around for some reason. I worked with some people I hadn’t worked with before and we all made great teams if I do say so. My group’s (and then my own) subject was that on prepositional phrases, noun phrases and verb phrases. With Zach as a linguistics major, he gave me a slightly new take on the prepositional phrases I thought I knew so well, which was cool.
The time limits were actually really good for me. I like just diving in without time to really dwell on or question anything, or worry about how I could most effectively and perfectly present the subjects at hand. We all just had to DO it and hope for the best! Also, it’s amazing how our comprehension for grammar is so deep, yet many of us just forget what things are called (Adverbials especially comes to mind).
Good week! I’m going to try and score us some good coffee.
Candy store at Bown Crossing. Go!