Thinking Globally, Teaching Locally

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From Nikolas Gardiakos —

I recently had the pleasure of teaching a section of ENC1101 to a group of international students through the Global UCF program and I was reminded of the transformative nature of the Composition I course. Of course, there are students that go through a transformation in their writing every semester, but this class was different to me because it was made up of students whose primary language was not English. They were also very aware of their own transformation process because they were in a different country attempting to matriculate into a large, public university in the United States. This awareness allowed them to focus on both the new concepts they were asked to consider and also to improve on their use of a new language.

This experience got me thinking about what it means to find your voice as a writer and what that experience would be like if you were doing it in another language. Along with the threshold concepts we present to students in ENC1101, what is such a rewarding discovery for students is helping them to find and develop their voices as writers. Developing a voice and identity as a writer are so connected that they affect each other in that what we say or write is based on who we are and that is shaped in large part by what we experience and say in our lives. Many of the students commented on how the course was changing the ways that they thought as they were thinking and writing more and more in English. I’m sure that this happens for many students in our composition courses, but I think many times the change is much more subtle.

As I reflect on the experience of being these students’ teacher I can’t help but wonder what a version of my own voice and identity would be if I were to attempt to use another language. What would a Spanish, Japanese, or Russian version of me sound like? How would that change the way I expressed myself? I don’t know if I would have been brave enough as a freshman to travel across an ocean and enroll in college in a new country where I didn’t know the language. It is such a new experience anyway, I don’t know if I could throw in more variables into the mix. What was great about my experience was meeting a group of students who were willing to do just that, and having the opportunity to help them find their English voices through the concepts in our composition course.

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