Harris’ article has been very eye opening for me,as i am guilty of the assumptions American tutors make in her opinion. When i first saw my schedule,i flinched upon seeing names of Asian students,assuming i would have an uphill climb in terms of tutoring. My fears were exaggerated,however, as i have found my ESL student to have the same amount of ability as anyone else. In addition,like the students Harris refers to, my student asks me several questions ranging from grammar to audience, which is excellent.
Despite my positive experiences, i understand Harris’ statements about the cultural gap that could exist between students and us.When i was a sophomore,i had a neighbor who insisted that i read over his political science papers. He is a first generation Ghanian student and had a firm grasp of English speech. Despite this,he would often use overly complex run on sentences with many suppositions. Even worse,his points were not argued,they were asserted. I honestly commented on his paper and he reacted flippantly,saying that he only wanted me to fix mistakes. He didn’t understand why i was commenting on his argument. My friend was far from unintelligent:he currently has a 4.0 gpa and is currently writing his senior thesis. His problem was that he just didn’t understand “American” essay which isn’t so quick to make bold assertions. Fortunately,he has improved greatly in his writing.
I believe that from the first session,it is the tutor’s responsibility to establish how the sessions will go. Even non-ESL students are prone to thinking that the tutor is nothing more than a human spell-checker.This isn’t the fault of the student;we should show them how our methods are much better. The good thing is that,for the most part,students want to come see us (or at least i tell myself that). Harris tells us that her polls of ESL students show that they relish the opportunity to interact with a tutor (210). Many students just don’t understand how they are expected to write by American universities.My ESL student is honestly one of the brightest people i’ve met in college and she’s already drastically improved since we’ve started.Being able to explain what’s expected of them goes a long way.
After reading this article,i feel that i should try harder to guide my students to become more self-sufficient ,regardless of whether or not they are in ESL. I’m pretty sure we’ve all had situations where we were tempted to give in to students desire for quick and easy solutions. I know i have at times,but i feel that understanding a students needs,not their wants,will help us to be better tutors.