Affirming Diversity Assignment

Students require tutoring for almost every subject in school.  One of the more popular subjects that students require tutoring in is Writing.  All different kinds of kids get help in writing.  However, ESL students tend to give writing tutors the most trouble.  History and math, for example, are significantly easier to teach to students from other countries mainly because there is only one answer and one way to get to each solution.  However, there are quite a few barriers both the tutor and the student must overcome to require a correct and well-written paper that could go in any direction.  Some of these barriers include the American teaching and tutoring method, having the student expect the tutor to provide them with the answers, and overcoming cultural differences that someone who is not from the United States might find inappropriate.  This is exactly what Muriel Harris discusses in her writing, “Affirming Diversity: Cultural Conflicts in the Writing Center: Expectations and Assumptions of ESL Students.”  Although culturally different, ESL students who are being tutored in writing turn out to act very similar and appreciate the same things American students being tutored in writing.

Harris, after giving several ESL students a survey to fill out providing information about their experiences and expectations with tutors, realized that they are pretty much on the same page as the tutors who are helping them.  These students want their tutors to assist them in becoming better writers.  Similarly, tutors want their students to become better writers.  However, the relationship between an ESL student and their tutor are not perfect to begin with.  Both must realize that a compromise must be met.  One cannot expect someone who is new to something o completely change their ways.  Writing is no exception.  How would you feel if someone made you change the way you wrote entirely?  On the other hand, ESL students must be able to accept the fact that their writing will have to change, even if it is just a little.  The two main things to consider is the what the tutor’s responsibilities are and the student’s perspectives and both have a pretty good understanding of what to expect from the other.

According to Harris’ survey, ESL students actually are very aware of what the tutor’s purpose is prior to being tutored as well as liking the usual methods and procedures of tutors.  One thing they like is that the tutors are more personal.  Teachers are known to lecture and provide general ideas and concepts.  It is in tutoring where the individual opinion emerges and is discussed.  “They often commented on the freedom in our classrooms to ask questions” (Harris 211).  Many of the students felt like the environment was comfortable enough to ask tutors questions they had.  In many of the student’s homelands, they were taught not to question the teacher.  Therefore, it seems that many of their ways of teaching in other countries are similar to how things are done in the U.S.  As a tutor, many of my students have told me that they feel much more comfortable asking questions to me then in front of their class to their teacher.  “A tutor helps people to find their own style of writing and know how to check our mistakes” (Harris 211).  Many ESL students are glad that the tutors allow them to emerge as their own, independent writers.  Also, they are glad that tutors do not simply tell them what is wrong and show them how to fix it, but instead make room for themselves to fix things up.  They also appreciated the friendliness and the initiated pre-work chatter.  A good majority of the ESL students surveyed felt like it would have been awkward if the session immediately began with work.  Instead by starting the session with small talk, the students felt more comfortable and relaxed when dealing with writing.

In conclusion, ESl students like and dislike what any other student being tutored likes and dislikes for the most part.  Most enjoy eagerness, enthusiasm, and the ability to make jokes.  They dislike impatience, tardiness, and tutors poking fun at their papers.  Obviously, there are issues that need to be addressed.  “We can at least be aware that ESL students who come to our writing centers may be trying to move from very different perspectives on the teacher-student relationship or are not comfortable with our assumptions or ways of interacting” (Harris 213).  A common mishap will happen with tutors and students for the simple fact that one may be unaware of what is not socially acceptable in another’s culture.  For example, some ESL students found it annoying that tutors had their feet on the desk or were drinking coffee while tutoring.  However, regardless of the little things, tutors for the most part get the job done and strike a great and helpful relationship with their ESL students.

Charlie Victor

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