Throughout my study of the Chinese language, I have come across many common sayings, one of which is第一影响很重要, first impressions are important. I believe that Shanti Bruce’s article brings that Chinese saying to the forefront of writing center development. Bruce’s article, Listening to and Learning from ESL Writers, explores the experiences several ESL students had with their school’s writing centers. Although their responses varied in length, detail, and context, one message rang clear: a first impression truly is a lasting one. Based on their initial interactions with the center, these students developed some very strong opinions regarding the usefulness of the facility. Each of the interviewed students seemed to be seeking a writing center with the semblance of home, safe and comfortable.
Therefore, the case can be made that a writing centers primary concern should be to establish an atmosphere of comfort and security. However, centers have a unique challenge because of the negative connotations surrounding the word “tutor”. Sometimes, this word can denote a superior helping an inferior make up for inadequacy in a certain academic field.This is, however, where writing centers have an advantage. I feel that unlike in other academic disciplines, the writing centers promote a collaborative learning environment. Writing is largely communal so labels such as superior, authority, and inferior may be irrelevant.
As I read the comments of the ESL students Bruce interviewed, I was surprisingly comforted by some of the fears that the students expressed because as a tutor-in-training, I share many of their same worries. I also fear being inadequate or lacking authority in a given tutoring session. As a freshman, is my limited experience as a university writer sufficient?
Oriekose Idah Stanford University ’15