Writing Center ESL Specialist
Instructor in Composition
What does your role as the ESL specialist for the Writing Center entail? There is a lot of training and thinking about what different student populations need from us. I help consultants understand who our ESL writers are, what concerns they have, how to respect their diverse experiences, and more. I also help instructors who have a lot of English language learners, and attend events like the International Student Orientation to welcome them to our space. Throughout the year, I respond to consultant challenges and victories when working with English language learners.
What drew you to working with ESL students? I’ve always loved language and linguistics, and I felt that these students had different concerns when writing academically, concerns that students who went to high school in the U.S. might take for granted. I also appreciate the way that they challenge my assumptions about everything I teach. I can’t assume that we have shared cultural or historical knowledge, and find myself considering those issues from a perspective that isn’t as familiar with those events or figures. Talking about memes in a class of American students is very different than that same discussion with a majority of international students! How does one explain John Mulaney memes if your students have never heard of him?
What is the most important thing you’ve learned? That everyone has their own background and it needs to be understood. This isn’t just about their first language or where they went to high school, but that everyone has their own goals that they want to achieve for different reasons. Whether they want to go back to their home country after graduation and solve problems there, or they spoke a language other than English at home and they are the first in their families to attend college, English language learners are diverse! They bring so much to the classroom and the Writing Center if we take the time to get to know them.
This has also forced me to reconsider what diversity and social justice issues even are. In attending the Faculty Institute for Inclusive Excellence and then developing a project for that, I realized that our idea of diversity and social justice is situated in an American perspective, and so while I might have a classroom that is more diverse in terms of where the students are from, their understanding of a social justice issue is very different from my own.
If you could describe the Writing Center in one word, what would it be? Community.