12.10 Response

I’m really glad we’re covering multilingualism and the composition classroom because this is something I don’t feel like I know much about. The readings made me think about two of my students at a different school. They are both ESL students and have been noticeably struggling with their grammar and, also, their ability to organize their ideas in high stakes writing assignments. I had been trying to work with one of them individually, meeting with her to talk about additional drafts, and allowing her to rewrite assignments because I know she wants to improve and practice her written English. On the last assignment, she said, “I’m not giving you this draft yet because it’s still all in Portuguese. I realized it’s easier for me to write it that way and then translate it.” She sounded very happy about this “discovery,” but I felt frustrated and disappointed in both of us. It was like she was giving up. While I thought I was providing helpful suggestions, comments I have and would give on another student’s draft, one who grew up speaking and writing English, I realize these suggestions might not have been right, or might not have been enough, for her particular situation. In any case, they certainly weren’t working well enough to keep her from writing a draft in Portuguese! But, I don’t really know where to find guidance on particular strategies for working with ESL students, so in this regard I feel somewhat helpless…

As usual, I liked the practical suggestions, such as departmental workshops on teaching ESL writing and listservs to discuss working with ESL students, found in Matsuda’s “Composition Studies and ESL Writing.” I would agree with Matsuda’s suggestion that composition departments try to incorporate second-language writing into their curricula. While I know we have the T sections at Baruch, I still hope we can talk about the other resources Baruch has to offer both faculty and students.

The Delpit and Canagarajah were also really interesting. I especially enjoyed reading the excerpts from Buthainah’s essay and seeing how Canagarajah and Buthainah identified and analyzed her rhetorical and aesthetic choices. I look forward to hearing the class’s thoughts on these articles.