When gain as much as I did from such

            When
first beginning this experiment, I didn’t expect to gain as much as I did from such
an experience. You see, my letter partner Isaac and I decided I was to be
blindfolded first. We agreed that it would be interesting to be blindfolded
while on our way to school since I have no class on Mondays and I would join
Isaac during his break time from classes. The day began as any normal Monday morning,
other than the fact that I parked my car near Isaac’s house and decided to
experience something different, which was taking the 92 Foster bus blindfolded
to school with Isaac. At first, I wondered how people would stare at me or even
judge me, but I decided to go through with it anyway. Isaac made sure to direct
me and lead me towards the right direction when crossing the street to the bus
stop. Never before have I feared just standing outside; the darkness, the
thought of not knowing where I was and what surrounded me, really made me feel
hopeless and with no sense of direction. 
That’s when it occurred to me, do our writing advisees feel like this
when writing their papers? Lost, hopeless and with no sense of direction when
it comes to starting their writing pieces? As I began to contemplate that
question, the bus arrived.

            Sitting
on the bus, I heard many beautiful sounds, especially the sounds of multiple
languages being spoken. If anyone knows me well, then they definitely know my
love for other cultures and languages of the World. In my free time, I study
languages, and although I may not be fluent in them, I have picked up enough
knowledge and words to distinguish different languages amongst one another.
Within a matter of minutes, I counted about 5 different languages being spoken,
just on one bus ride, including English, Spanish, Polish, Romanian, Arabic and
Tagalog. Naturally, since Isaac is a Tagalog speaker, I asked him if indeed
this individual was speaking Tagalog (the Filipino language) and I was correct.
The fact that I was blindfolded and couldn’t see anything, allowed me to really
put myself into perspective, not only with the advisees we work with that need
help starting their pieces, but with a focus more on ESL students and how
difficult it must be for them to adapt to a new country, and different writing
styles. Alongside Isaac, sitting towards the end of the bus, I felt as if every
conversation, noise, or sound was being projected towards us. No matter what I
heard, the sound of different languages was something I couldn’t ignore and they
kept coming back to me. Born and raised in Chicago as a first generation
American, my parents are immigrants from Albania. Although I was born here, the
first language I ever spoke was Albanian, and I too know what it’s like to
struggle with learning English, since I have witnessed it first hand with my
family members. With the blindfold covering my eyes, I put myself in the shoes
of an ESL student, not being able to see anything, I felt as if I had to adapt
to a new environment and a new lifestyle. ESL students feel as if they are
blindfolded daily, because of the fact that they need to adjust to a new
language, culture and school system, especially when it comes to writing
styles, which can lead them to feel lost along the way.

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            Thinking
back to the class and our readings, my mind automatically went to the article
called Cultural Conflicts in the Writing Center: Expectations and Assumptions
of ESL students, by Muriel Harris. When reading such a piece, the part that
stuck out to me most was called: ESL student’s perspectives. The author
discusses how they gathered 85 international students at their university in
order to learn more about what ESL students expect when attending tutorial
sessions or visiting places for assistance with their pieces, such as the
writing center (Harris, 192). Whenever I do have a session at the writing
center with an ESL student, I often remind myself it is important to be
encouraging about the students writing, seeing as such a system is new to them
and also, we must be patient and understanding of their situation with English being
their second language. As emphasized in the reading, when it comes to what ESL
students expect and prefer during tutorial sessions: “they most often cited
American friendliness as a characteristic they appreciate; many also respond
favorably to American helpfulness” (Harris, 200). The key word in all of this
is helpfulness, this is what our job as writing advisors is, to be helpful to
our advisees and foster independent learning they can be comfortable and
confident in themselves.  Just as I had
Isaac help and guide me during our day and on the bus ride, writing advisees,
including students who are ESL, students that have disabilities or students
that just want some tips/advice, also need someone to guide them towards a path
of understanding, much like the writing advisors of the writing center do.
Before I knew it, I heard Isaac tell me we had arrived to school and that it
was time to get off the bus.

            North
Park University has a huge campus, on most days, I consider North Park my
second home, it is a location I am familiar with, love to be a part of and
especially someplace I consider safe. With the blindfold around my eyes, at
that moment I felt as if I were an area I had never been to before. With Isaac
directing me along the way, I began to hear the voices of students and the noise
of campus life come closer my way. To my surprise, along the way to the Johnson
center, several individuals (which we knew from school) stopped Isaac and I to
question what we were doing. When explaining to them that we were doing a
blindfolded experiment for the writing center, they exclaimed how cool they
thought what we were doing was, and gave me words of praise and encouragement
for being able to walk around blindfolded. Such positive vibes really allowed
for me to take in the experience as something I could learn and grow from. Continuing
inside the Johnson center with Isaac guiding my path, we finally made it to
what Isaac calls the circular tables at the entrance of the university. Sitting
down once again, for an instance, I felt aware of my surroundings, although I
couldn’t see where I was; I heard familiar voices and smelled aromas which I
knew too well, the bagels and coffee from Einstein’s. While sitting with Isaac
at the Johnson center and talking to him about one of his homework assignments,
I once again heard a variety of languages being spoken. As time went by, I
couldn’t help but once again think of the ESL students the writing center works
with, and how I too felt a bit of what they feel daily, especially when it
comes to writing, disoriented, with no sense of direction. Reminiscing about
the course during my time performing the experiment, I recalled the class session
where Mrs. Suzan Shanker came to visit and gave us advice on how to work with
student’s whose second language is English. Every student has a different
situation, so it is important to note what areas of writing students are
struggling in. Just through being blindfolded, not only did I put myself in the
perspective of students that struggle with writing pieces, but I also realized
how the writing center in a way is a language center for students, as discussed
in the reading: ESL Writers: A Guide for Writing Center Tutors – Trying to
Explain English by Ben Rafoth. As writing advisors, most of us are native
English speakers, and advisees view us as the right people to turn to for help
and any questions they may have when it comes to the writing process. Furtherly explained by Rafoth, “we can all benefit
from thinking about what makes English challenging to learn as a second
language” (Rafoth, 142). That is exactly what I did even more after my
experiences with the blindfolding experiment; students, who come to the writing
center, even if they aren’t ESL students, just need a little guidance and
explanations on what it takes to fulfill the main components of the writing
process. By teaching them so, as writing advisors, we are leading them towards
a path of comprehension, where next time, they can also help other students who
were once in their position. Such teaching mechanisms allow for the chain of
helping one another to continue, and this is what the writing advisors and the
writing itself are all about at North Park, self-reliant learning where
students feel comfortable and proud of their writing pieces.

            Further
discussing my thoughts and connections between our class readings, my
experiences while being blindfolded and the writing center, Isaac and I got
into the topic of the article read in last week’s class, Multi-sensory Tutoring
for Multi-sensory Learners. As writing advisors, in some point in time we will
come across working with students that have disabilities, and it is important
to note the necessary steps to take in working with such students. Along with
this, meeting with Laura Ebner during last week’s class and the tips and advice
on resources that can be used when working with students that have disabilities
were very useful. A portion of the article which I personally benefit from as a
writing advisor is the fact that with disabled students, techniques such as
visual, auditory, kinesthetic and multi-sensory techniques can be used to
convey learning in a manner which is enjoyable, easier understandable, and
works for each individual student (Konstant, 7). Such information presented in
the reading above goes hand in hand with descriptions on written and oral
language disabilities talked about in Brinckerhoff and Smithy’s article,
Effects of learning disabilities on college students; written and oral language
disabilities include difficulties with speaking, listening, communicating,
reading spelling and writing, to name a few (Brinckerhoff, 261). Interestingly
enough, while doing this blindfolded experiment, Isaac and I used auditory
techniques to communicate information to one another, since I wasn’t able to
visually see my surroundings. Once again, during my time blindfolded, I found
myself in the position of a student who may need to use multiple techniques to
fully comprehend information being presented to them.

            In
a time span of two hours, my blindfolded adventure came to an end. Through my
experience with having Isaac guide me during the journey, such an experiment
allowed me to put myself in the perspective of students I come across in the
writing center. Overall, students coming to the writing center feel
blindfolded; all they need is the assistance and guidance of writing advisors
to help them find the right direction in the writing process. Once this is
done, students are able to independently learn and feel confident in their
work, as they too continue helping others become familiar and comfortable with
writing pieces. As a whole, the experience of being blindfolded is one I
benefited and learned a lot from, as I had the chance to experience many
emotions, situations, sounds and languages, all in just two hours. This is
truly the beauty of the writing center and writing process itself, words have
no culture or borders, especially at North Park University.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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