I have never worked with an ESL student, but as tutor who has worked at the desk for so long, I know how many we have and the special attention that goes into selecting the appropriate tutor.
I like when Harris writes,” tutor discusses” when reiterating some answers from her survey. I think this is an important concept. One can really get the essence that a tutor’s job is to elaborate and to be in dialogue with the student. It is important to speak to them, not to pontificate “on” them. I rarely think a student could be open to truly learning or engaging with at tutor if he or she perceives the tutor as being on a different level then them. This is not to indiciate the tutor is not knowledgeable or obviously knows more, but is discussing and encouraging in a way that allows equality of environment.
I think it’s important these students are alacritous when it comes to asking tutors questions. It demonstrates a level of comfort that is not tantamount to that of the teacher because the student is more at ease with the tutor. It seemed the students really saw the tutors as tools. Then there are those ESL students who are assume a passive role in learning based on their cultural understandings of education and value of a certain type of intelligence. Does this mean that the tutor should actively change the way they ask the student’s questions or to give them more “self-discovering” assignments based off the work in their paper?
Being able to see where the weak points are in a paper stems from being able to discuss weaknesses in general. If someone doesn’t have the lexicon to articulate what they are seeing versus what they are not seeing then they won’t be able to receive instruction/advice/input to see what they are doing right or wrong. At this point int he game though, some sort of neural plasticity is possible but it’s so much harder. It is difficult to manipulate a whole psychology of what a student is and what a student’s responsibilities are. When a culture puts an emphasis on a certain type of intelligence (passive, grade oriented, memory based), it is unlikely that for ONE aspect of learning we can genuinely encourage true growth. Also we have to ask the students is the interest to actually be a better writer or just to get a better grade?
It’s definitely important for the tutor to facilitate an amicable environment for the student. This is reiterated in our orientation packet where the tutor should make an effort to be comfortable with the student without being too much of the friend. The balance is key. A good ESL tutor is compassionate/ sensitive of their learning difficulties without being patronizing. The ESL student is clearly making an effort to assimilate to a particular culture and I think the tutor demonstrating some of that same openness to their culture would create a higher level of respect and ease.
Like previously written, I have never had the privilege of working with an ESL student, but would be excited to have the challenge. Honestly, I’ve experienced students who use the semantics of the english language so poorly, that it is like it is not their first language. Every student feels embarrassed by their weaknesses and struggles, but they are there to get help for a reason. There is an art to instruction and it is constructing supportive phrases and allowing the experience to be a mirroring one. People respond to different phrases differently. This is obvious, but how a student responds to a particular task is phrase dependent. Some non technical aspects of tutoring (but essential aspects) are creating a comfortable, safe environment and effective communication.