ESL students who come to the writing center seeking help are individuals just like any other students who ask for tutors’ assistance. Shanti Bruce emphasizes in the opening paragraph of his “Listening to and Learning from ESL Writers” that adding the perspective of the ESL student reminds us that each ESL student we encounter is an individual. As a writing tutor in training looking forward to tutoring in Stanford’s Hume Writing Center next year, I think it is important for the tutor to try and build a relationship with the tutee, or at least establish a friendly atmosphere. This will ease the nerves of those students – especially ESL students – who feel nervous or weak about seeking help from the writing center. The overall personality and attitude of the tutor makes a difference as well. If an ESL student is concerned about being weak for asking for help with writing, it may be appropriate for the tutor to explain that anyone and everyone can use and benefit from the writing center. I think I would personally say that I have writing tutors look at my writing to help me; it’s always nice to have a second set of eyes looking at your work to catch mistakes and offer feedback for improvement. I suppose before the tutoring even begins, the tutor’s job is to make sure that the students feel comfortable coming to the writing center and seeking help.
Two weeks ago, an ESL student came into the Hume Writing Center and I observed her tutoring session. The tutor read the student’s text aloud, a technique that Bruce mentioned was helpful according to an ESL student named Zahara that he interviewed. This technique was especially helpful because the tutor would read the student’s work aloud and occasionally pause at instances that needed revision. These pauses served as cues for the tutee to realize that something needed to be corrected. Oftentimes the tutee was able to notice the pause and consequently notice her error and correct it. This method allowed the ESL student to take a more active role in the revisions of her paper and I believe, helps to produce a better writer rather than merely better writing. I hope to use this technique should I ever tutor an ESL student, along with keeping a positive and welcoming attitude.
Bianca Aguirre, Stanford University ’15