Am I Engaged?

When I signed up for this class, I didn’t realize how much we would be talking about interpersonal skills. Therefore, I think this week’s readings are very valuable, especially in acknowledging that there so much more to teaching than being able to transmit content.

I especially like Diab and friends’ emphasis on “embodied and engaged pedagogy” because I feel that helping others always begins with being present and involved in what they have to say. Especially as an introvert, being present with others, especially strangers, can be very draining. I don’t particularly enjoy making small talk and sometimes feel uncomfortable when obliged to do so. However, I often view my consultations as some of the most rewarding human interactions I have. Having an agenda during a specific time period allows me to very intentionally build a relationship with someone I may have just met. We also usually end with a tangible sense of future direction or growth as well, which is very rewarding.

I also really liked that Diab et al. and Moussu talked not only about international students, but also students who identified as American, but were multilingual. I feel like readings in the past often talked about assuming the capabilities of international students, especially from Latinx or Asian backgrounds. However, many students who were born in America or identify as American still learn English as a second language because their parents may be multilingual.

As an immigrant, I was put into ESL classes in elementary school. Because I was young, I don’t remember struggling much with learning English, and I now have a pretty innate sense of English grammar. However, I still struggle with putting words together in a way that might seem awkward or smooth to a native English speaker (especially with prepositions!). I’m also unsure of how my proficient, yet not always natural English skills relate to my personal identification as Korean American. According to my outer appearance, I’m stereotyped as foreign, and therefore, not as capable in English and writing. Although I refuse to be confined by the stereotype (and feel like it shouldn’t exist at all), I occasionally find myself wondering how others and I would view my abilities if I were Caucasian, born and raised in the US.

This nuance in my (and others’) racial/ethnic identity was well-explored by Suhr-Sytsma and Brown. Focusing on the multi-dimensionality and intersectionality of identities, Suhr-Sytsma and Brown really highlight the importance of viewing each student as a multi-faceted human being who cannot be summarized by a single category. All their descriptions of everyday oppression point back to Diab and friends’ “embodied and engaged pedagogy.” We can’t properly engage with those we are trying to help if we compartmentalize them before they get a chance to show who they are.

Practically speaking, I’ve once again been reminded of the importance of engaging with others through asking questions that may seemingly have nothing to do with the writing itself. Questions like how was your day/week aren’t simply to make small talk; they may reveal a lot about the background and personality of the writer. Although I often try to avoid small talk and more extraverted interactions in general, I feel that getting to know and engaging with the student is a very important part of consultations. For me, this is and will continue to be one of the biggest challenges and goals for my consultations: am I engaged?

One thought on “Am I Engaged?

  1. Dear Julie,
    I thought this was a very thoughtful reflection on the readings and on your personal experiences as a Writing Partner, a writer, and a multi-faceted student. Your post made me realize how essential small-talk really is in not only “warming up” the consultation and getting to know the writer on a surface level, but also engaging with how the student writer identifies him/her/themselves and what kinds of intersections (between language, identity, etc.) spring up. I especially resonated with you’re experience on seeming different to others on the outside and how the mere presence of visual or physical markers (or the lack thereof) changes certain assumptions that people have about us, and how that dynamic can be just as easily applied on the flip side: without hearing out others, we risk falling into the trap of our own preconceived, and potentially misguided, ideas. Through engagement, we establish rapport and understanding, and from there we can work with each other toward a common goal. That’s the most exciting part! Thanks for sharing!

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