Harris’s enlightening insight to the goals of ESL students in “Cultural Conflicts in the Writing Center” opened my eyes to the differences in focus between non-native students and native American students. While I have had extensive experience with ESL individuals with a wide range of differences in ethnicity, age, education level, type of education, etc., that interaction was relatively informal and not in the focused academic setting of a writing center. In reading Harris’s essay, I was able to think back to my informal, relatively conversational situations, with ESl individuals and see how their focus on the way they presented ideas was notably different than my focus.
I was especially pleased with one of Harris’s focuses: learning about the culture of the student. There were many overlapping differences in learning and communicating between native speakers in American and ESL students who may have studied in other countries for the majority of their education. However, Harris did well in giving specific examples of how we as tutors cannot oversimplify the complexities that ESL students face coming from a variety of backgrounds. Just as we cannot treat every native speaker equally regardless of the specific needs they need, we must be able to recognize the nuances of the individual as a writer. We would be doing more harm than anything to the student by saying that we understand that as an ESL student they immediately struggle with X, Y, and Z. We need to try to remain as open and aware when working with ESL students so as to not group together the focuses and needs of these students, but rather work to create open dialogue that will lead to a better level of understanding the roles and expectations of both tutor and student, as Harris argues.
(I would like to note that the page said it wasn’t submitted and entered as a draft somehow, although I did try to publish this several days before the due date.)