Muriel Harris- ESL 11/7/11

Tutors of ESL students have to be culturally sensitive to what the student may be expecting due to past experience.  I think it is important to preface the session with your approach to tutoring and explain what is going to happen.  Giving this explanation, as well as opening the floor to questions and suggestions about what might help the student, should close the gap between the tutor’s expectations and the student’s. Focusing on the collaborative view of tutoring will also encourage the student to feel more comfortable in the one on one situation that does not much resemble traditional schooling.  The surveys conducted by Muriel Harris indicated that ESL students tend to be more passive and expect the tutor solve their problems.  I believe open veins of communication will solve this problem as well.  Ultimately, the students should know that the tutor is there to guide and help students help themselves.  Prior to such explanation however, it is very important that the tutor briefly engage in conversation to learn some simple facts about the student in an off-topic initial conversation.  This conversation will set the tone for the rest of the sessions.  By talking to the student, the tutor is showing that he genuinely cares and is interested in the student and the student’s success.  Perhaps explaining the theory behind such an approach would put it into a better perspective of the student, especially since most of their prior learning experiences with English writing tended toward the theoretical side.  While ESL students may not be used to open conversation and discussion in the classroom, a more informal setting could lessen the awkwardness.  If the tutor sat more caddy corner, or next to the student, indicating that he is working with the student, perhaps it would add to the desired sense of openness.  As Mel Levine’s “Myth of Laziness” explained, the symptoms of output failure may resemble laziness, but it is actually a neurological issue causing such a result.  ESL students may not be comfortable voicing their own opinions because of past experience, but must be taught to do so.  The tutor can help by choosing exercises geared toward brainstorming and personal analysis.  At our level of tutoring, where the student and tutor are close in age, attending the same university, and experiencing much of the same lifestyle, I believe it is essential that the tutor be fully honest.  Because a student may not speak English perfectly or particularly well, does not mean they cannot read the body language or uneasy, nervous aura of a session.  The tutor should be sympathetic and kind the student.  Chances are that an ESL student seeking tutoring is concerned for the grade he may earn, because he already knows or feels that he is not a strong writer.  Explaining that any and all questions are encouraged will dispel some of this discomfort.  I also like to let the students know that they can stop me at any point if they do not understand what I am saying or have a question about an exercise.  At a diverse University like Rutgers, it is important that we as members of the community are always looking to learn more about other cultures and recognizing personal failures in certain areas of cultural understanding.  People need to constantly evaluate and reevaluate their comments for their sensitivity.  Many times a person does not realize that what they are save that what they are saying could be misunderstood or taken in a way that it was not intended.  It is essential that a tutor be careful, kind, understanding and patient when tutoring an ESL student.  With the language barrier many ESL student struggle with, many may already feel that they do not fully fit into the American community; in a tutoring session, it is especially important to eliminate that feeling.

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