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Writing Centers and ELL Students

Have you ever tried to put yourself in someone else’s shoes? You know, walk a mile…

I ask because it seems the filter through which we see the world is limited to our own biases until something jolts us just enough to look to the left or right. I’ve tutored adults learning English, usually with limited or no English; they were my first jolt. This week I watched three videos called Writing Across Borders. They were about college students from other countries, learning to write according to American English standards. This was another jolt.

I considered this a jolt, not because I personally did not understand this was an act that took courage on an international student’s part, but because of the rigidness of some professors. Not that I am suggesting the standards be lowered. I think there is a level of comprehension and ability to convey thoughts that a student definitely needs to be able to express. However, the lack of instruction on how to do such is often left undone.

An example from the video was of a woman from China explaining she did not understand the need to cite sources. Telling her not to plagiarize accomplishes little when consideration for where she is coming from a culturally has not been explored. As the student pointed out, she comes from a communist country where everything belongs to everyone, using others words is a part of writing.

Just because someone from another country attends an American school, doesn’t mean they instantly know how everything works just because their feet are walking the halls. I highly doubt Americans would adapt any better if the roles were reversed.

This week, to go along with the videos, I also read Tutoring ESL Students: Issues and Options by Muriel Harris and Tony Silva. This article was about how to prioritize errors, and meeting needs of the ESL student.

One of the comments that I thought fit with the videos was “…we also have to be aware that we might make unconscious judgments about others based on our expectations about such behaviors.” This was said in the context of looking for patterns in a student’s work, and how worthwhile it may or may not be.

I need to say, though, while I give this article leeway in using ESL (English as a Second Language) instead of ELL (English Language Learners) because it was written in 1993; I personally do not like ESL. For me, using it takes on a superiority complex that is false. It is Americans who are not fluent in other languages. Though this is beginning to change as we catch up with the rest of the world. Most other countries learn three or more languages; English is merely one of many for them.

Which brings me back to colleges, professors, and writing centers. We do a disservice to students (American or International), and our universities, if professors do not take a few steps in an International students shoes and try to understand what cultural differences may need further explanation. Universities could also improve on this as they integrate International students.  Finally, it does a writing center no service to send frustrated ELL students to their doors, who only want grammar help because a professor expects American articles to be included correctly in every sentence. After all, would we remember to remove them if we were attending a university in Russia?

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Collaboration! What is it Good for? Huh!

This week’s post centers on three different articles, regarding writing centers. First is a history of writing centers authored by Elizabeth H. Boquet titled, “Our Little Secret”: A History of Writing Centers, Pre- to Post-Open Admissions.

In this article from 1999, Boquet recounts the history and highlights the many struggles of the writing center along the way. Many of these struggles point back to the same difficulties noted in my earlier post. There continues to be a want on the part of educators to use a writing center as a place for students to go to get up to speed. It would seem that teachers have a need/don’t need view of writing centers. Kind of a go there to learn to write in a way that I find acceptable, but don’t question my instructions or assignments. This, to me, has the potential to suppress the student’s desire to learn and grow as a writer, communicator.

Speaking of a communicator, this leads me to the second article titled, “Peer Tutoring and the Conversation of Mankind” by Kenneth A. Bruffee, published in 1984.

I liked this article, not only for its content but because it focused on writing as a form of conversation, albeit, that conversation can sometimes be one-sided. But, I think the goal of this article is to open a dialogue and have a conversation about peers tutoring and what takes place when they do. As Bruffee states, “Peer tutoring was a type of collaborative learning. It did not seem to change what people learned but, rather the social context in which they learned it.” This statement is one reason, I believe, teachers do not support writing centers, or only use them as a fix-it shop. They understand that if this statement is true, it is also threatening because “The better we understand this conceptual rationale, however, the more it leads us to suspect that peer tutoring (and collaborative learning in general) has the potential to challenge the theory and practice of traditional classroom learning itself.”

The article goes on to discuss and lay out, nearly step-by-step, the conversational exchange that happens when someone writes. Bruffee points out that the value and natural exchange that takes place when someone discusses vocally their thoughts before writing. This collaborative learning has a place and value within writing centers.

Collaboration takes me to the third article, “Collaboration, Control, and the Idea of a Writing Center” by Andrea Lunsford of Stanford University. I read the article in The St. Martin’s Sourcebook for Writing Tutors, but the link is to a public newsletter and the same article. While this is a good article, I found myself continuing to ask, “Who gets the credit and acknowledgment for the work with collaboration?”

So what does collaboration mean? According to Merriam-Webster, collaborate has two main definitions: 1) to work with others (as in writing a book) and 2) to cooperate with an enemy force that has taken over a person’s country.

Lunsford does a great job of pointing out and cautioning about the use of collaboration throughout the article, to the point I started to wonder if she was buying her own arguments. Maybe because I’m an overly cautious individual, and I would be quite upset if while collaborating with someone they used my quotes and/or research and claimed it as their own. In a case such as that, I would be inclined to relate more with definition number two than one. Whatever the cautions and challenges that may come through collaboration (and there are many listed within the article), Lunsford makes some insightful comments such as,

“I believe, collaboration both in theory and practice reflects a broad-based epistemological shift, a shift in the way we view knowledge. The shift involves a move from viewing knowledge and reality as things exterior to or outside of us, as immediately accessible, individually knowable, measurable, and shareable—to viewing knowledge and reality as mediated by or constructed through language in social use, as socially constructed, contextualized, as, in short, the product of collaboration.”

This view, however, takes some power away from the writing center, and I’m not sure that is entirely a bad thing. What I mean by this is the focus of what a writing center is changes from keeper-of-the-skills key to the individuals and the conversations they are having.

Another notable quote from Lunsford article (and a hard to argue against one) is “Collaboration promotes excellence. In this regard, I am fond of quoting Hannah Arendt: ‘For excellence, the presence of others is always required.’” Think about that for a moment. I’m an individual that is comfortable with my own company, an introvert who likes to think I excel all on my own, but I can’t think of a time that I succeeded without having a conversation with someone about my aims, my goals, my thoughts. When was the last time you excelled without having a conversation about it?

I think this is at the heart of what a writing center does, helping people excel through conversation. Call it collaboration, or call it being what humans do, either way, it is helping each other achieve our goals, succeed…grow.

Check out our class blog for other thoughts on the subject.

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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November Update and Exciting News!

Hello, All!

November is turning out to be exciting and busy. Calling Me Home was released mid-September and much to my joy, I will be kicking off the book signing tour for it near my hometown! I hope you can join me:

November 12, 2011

at

Oasis Bookstore

102 W. Columbia

Farmington, MO

from

12-2pm

I will also be speaking on:

November 17, 2011

at

Mineral Area Writer’s Group

meeting at

Cantwell Baptist Church

1005 E Chestnut

Desloge, MO

from

5:30-7pm

(but may run later)


Contact Bill or Lydia Bond for further information

573-327-9341/573-327-9367

(I’ve added a link to their website. It is on the right side of this post)

I have invited local author, Regina Tittel to join me for the writer’s group. It is sure to be fun and informative! I hope you can make it.

In addition to the scheduled events, I am planning to meet with Susan Eaton with the Wayne County Historical Society to gain more information for the sequel to Calling Me Home. Yes. That means I am turning the gears and drawing back upon my roots for the sequel. I just can’t seem to not write about Missouri! The sequel will largely be centered in Southeast Missouri and is sure to have some surprises in it! I am getting excited about speaking with her and going over some of the articles she has found. It is clear, I am going to owe her a great deal of gratitude for her efforts in helping me research. Thanks in advance, Susan!

Although my work is fun, my trip will not be without some play. For some childish reason, I want to waste a tank of gas driving the back roads and stop by one of the many rivers to get me feet wet in the chilly waters that are long past swimming in for the season. I want to sit on my uncle’s front porch and wave at every car that passes by, knowing they will wave back even if they don’t know me.  It will be good to live life at a slower pace for awhile, where you don’t have to stop and think you should smell the roses. You just do. I look forward to Sunday services with the Christians there as well. They bring that slower pace with them when they meet and it is so refreshing to the soul.

Of course, I will stop by and visit my grandma’s grave while I’m in town. She was the reason I came back to Missouri after I moved away. After she passed away, I stayed gone for seven years. What a silly girl I was for wasting that sort of time! My grandma loved Southeast Missouri. She said of all the places she had seen Missouri was the prettiest. And she was right… as usual.

For an update here in Lincoln. We are adjusting to Belle not being with us any longer. She is still missed, but life is moving forward. Our cats have taken to wanting to go outdoors now. But after one of them dropped an ALMOST dead mouse in the middle of the kitchen floor, I think they can just be indoor cats.

Jared wrapped up his senior year of marching band, has finally taken the ACT, and is focusing on college requirements and weight-lifting. Paul is enjoying college life and is doing quite well. He and Steve have these technological discussions that sail right over my head, but they seem to be having fun, so that is all that is important to me.  We are all recovering from colds and I’m thankful they are on the way out the door!

Back in September, my Russian student needed to quit tutoring lessons. It was sad at first, I thought she was doing so well.  But life is busy and choices must be made. After a few week, the literacy council called to tell me they had another student for me! She is from Mexico and we meet for the first time later this week. I hope it is a good match between us. Tutoring is such a rewarding way to give back to the community.

I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but it will have to wait until next time. I hope to see as many of you as possible when I’m in Missouri. And I hope you will all take some time to stop and smell the roses… or listen to the leaves crunch under your feet.

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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CureSearch Walk, Travels, and Book Update

Kinleigh and me

The CureSearch Walk was a terrific experience.   I highly recommend becoming a part of it.  I met many wonderful people and heard so many rewarding stories of triumph.  The kids I met were encouraging survivors, and yet they wanted nothing more than to just be a kid. The walk was a huge success and raise more than $55,000 total!

Jaeclyn and me


These courageous young girls and their families made this a most rewarding and humbling day.  I consider myself fortunate to have met them.  They will always be a face I put with courage. Thank you.

My time spent in Missouri for September was beautiful.  I helped my cousin move and met up with some friends along the way.  One of my favorite things about Missouri is all the back roads. This time of year, I am compelled to take as many of them as I can. Below is one of my favorites that puts a little gravel in my travels. As fall brightens along this road, it becomes more beautiful.

One of my favorite back roads

One last thing before I close this post.  I have another book signing set up.  Calling Me Home was released earlier this week and I will be coming back to Missouri to Oasis Christian Bookstore in Farmington.  I hope to see you all there or maybe on a back road, as I am sure to meander across many come November!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Noon-2pm

Oasis Christian Bookstore

102 W. Columbia
Farmington, MO 63640

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Travel, Traveling, Traveled… Home

I set out on July 29 to meet my cousin (who had broken her arm) at my mom’s house in Springfield, Missouri.  We visited and stayed the night, staying up much too late for the early morning departure.  It had been eight years since we had last seen each other.  On Saturday, we voyaged out, making our way to Antlers, Oklahoma to pick up her son (who had broken his leg), and then drove back to Poplar Bluff, Missouri, stopping in Springfield to get my car.

Over the ten hour drive, we caught up over the last few years.  Life has a way of carrying on, and sometimes it seems as though it goes faster than reasonably possible.  Our children are grown now, and making choices that will dictate the rest of their lives.  It is a sobering thought, but one we tried hard to keep on the lighter side while we drove.  Two things we both agreed on… our sons are good boys and we are proud of them.

I stayed with Cheryl and Jakeob for a few days in Poplar Bluff.  While there we had a great time visiting.  I met some wonderful christians at the church I visited on Sunday morning.  Jakeob and I spent some time riding around the area looking at the flood damage near the Wappapello dam, stopping for ice cream, and seeing the sights around Poplar Bluff.  The area has grown since I was last there twenty-two years ago.

While I was with them I also visited my grandma’s grave in Patterson, Missouri.  The emotions were more intense than I thought they would be.  It has been eight years since her death.  I miss her terribly some days, and the day I was there certainly qualifies as one of  them.  After sitting by her headstone for minutes I didn’t count, I went to see my aunt and uncle.  They live in what will always be my grandma’s house.  I like that they are making the home their own, and the changes seem to all be for the better, ones Grandma would have liked herself.

On my second trip to Patterson, I was able to do some research at the Wayne County Historical Society.  The heat drove me out of the building long before I was ready to leave, but I comforted myself with the knowledge I will be coming back.  I met Susan Eaton, who allowed me access to the library, and who has a love of history that rivals my own.  I think if I lived in the area we could do some serious organizing of the library, which appears to be a diamond in the rough.  After leaving the library, I went back to my uncle’s to claim some of his home-grown tomatoes.  Which were really yummy, if you were wondering.

On Tuesday evening, I met a friend I haven’t seen in nearly twenty-two years for dinner.  We spent several hours catching up.  We, both, have two boys that are closer to being grown than children.  And like when Cheryl and I caught up on our drive, too much time had passed in much too short a span than seemed possible.  It is an odd feeling to realize how much I’ve missed her company over the years.  Hopefully, we will better keep in touch from now on.

Wednesday morning I set out for my hometown to visit a few more folks.  One, the mother of one of my best friends in high school, and the other, his uncle, whom we all affectionately called, Uncle Sam.  That is his real name, by the way.  Time seemed to reverse when I was at Jennie’s house, and that was truly refreshing.  After leaving, I went by The Pig for a combination sandwich and nostalgia.  Somethings really never do change.  This makes me happy.

As I ate and drove (not recommended when driving a stick) toward St. Louis to meet my sister for her birthday.  I won’t say how old she is, since she will always be younger than me.  We enjoyed light chit-chat with her family over pizza at a place called Pi.  Haley, my niece has the cutest glasses!  She is growing up fast, and plans to enter a beauty pageant in the fall.  Jake, my nephew is going to be attending college while he is still finishing high school.  He is working a lot this summer as a lifeguard and at the same place my sister works.  My sister’s husband indulged our chatter after having a long day of his own.  I thought that was a sweet thing for him to do.

For the next couple days I hid out and tried to get some editing done before I met up with Steve and the boys, along with Sarah, Paul’s girlfriend.  Steve’s brother had come up from Georgia to visit and the plan was to meet up with him.  After a day and a half, and lunch with my other sister and her family (I was required to return my other niece, Madison, before leaving town, even after we plotted otherwise), Jared and I headed back to Lincoln, arriving late Sunday night so he could make it to Marching Band camp.  He is section leader again this year.  I’m proud of his accomplishments and talent.

I am tired, but home.  I missed my bed!  Which I will blame for sleeping WAY to late on Monday morning.  Today, I tutored.  My student told me she will be on vacation for about five weeks.  She is going back to visit family in Russia.  After being gone for a week myself, I could only imagine being away for five weeks.  I hope she has a wonderful time and that the gap in lessons does not slow down the progress we have made.  She is planning to take a workbook with her to practice.  She is so smart, I think she will be just fine.

Personally, I am thankful to be home and am anxiously awaiting the arrival of the rest of my family this evening.

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Not Really Feeling the Blog Today

For some reason, I can not explain, I just don’t feel like blogging lately.  So in an attempt to push past it I’m posting a quick update.  No frills included.

Tutoring my Russian student in English is going smoothly.  We are moving to every other week though.  I think she has a fairly busy personal life.  I’ve learned she’s a grandma.  It is exciting to see her eyes light up when she mentions her grandchildren.

The deadline for Calling Me Home is July 31.  It is self-inflicted and I am determined to keep it.  The proposed release date is August 15.  I’m feeling the pressure.  Maybe this could be a contributor to why I don’t feel like blogging.

Steve and Paul are still road-tripping.  I think the mission has been to tackle the east coast one coffee house at a time.  They are enjoying themselves and that is good enough for me.  Although, I do find myself missing the little noises they make when home.  Jared has thoroughly enjoyed their absence, and I’m sure somewhere along the way has missed them a little.

The Torn Hearts book signings in Springfield, Missouri went well.  I was able to sell some books, but more importantly, I was able to visit with some family that I hadn’t seen in almost ten years.  Life certainly has a way of zipping by when your not paying attention.

Next month will be busy!  As is the story of my life.  Jared will be detasseling  corn and have two-a-days for marching band.  Paul will be moving into the dorms.  Steve’s brother will be coming to Missouri and he/we may be going to visit.  Steve will also be hard at work trying to catch up on all the work that patiently waited for him while he was away.  Calling Me Home will be released.  And I will start the sequel later in the month.

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Upcoming Book Signings in Nebraska and Missouri

It seems coffee houses are the hot spot for book signings lately.  I like the more intimate setting and hope those who attend like it too.  It is a more relaxed atmosphere… and who doesn’t love a good cup of coffee or tea?

In Nebraska, I will be at:

Meadowlark Coffee and Espresso

1624 South Street

Lincoln, NE

June 18, 2011

1-3pm

In Missouri, I will be at:

Hub Bikes and Beans

811 N. Boonville Ave

Springfield, MO

July 9, 2011

1-3pm

and

Dancing Mule Coffee

1945 S. Glenstone Ave

Springfield, MO

July 9, 2011

5-7pm

I look forward to seeing you all there!

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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