ESL 370 serves as Irvine Valley College’s entry-level academic writing course for non-native English speakers. This course is designed to help students feel more comfortable with higher-level readings and to bridge the gap between writing paragraphs and constructing basic essays.

Many ESL students are struggling with digital literacy or may not have learned effective study skills in their own country, creating a unique roadblock to success in American academics. While this class focuses on the ability to write proficiently, I approach it as an introduction to academic expectations in the American college. Students enter the class unaware of what their teaches want from them, and for many it’s a shock to spend up to 10 hours a week reading and writing for one class.

Students may also be dismayed to find that spending a lot of time or trying their best doesn’t necessarily relate to good grades. I feel that in this capacity one of my strengths is to be flexible with the students as they go through the growing pains of a truly rigorous class.

For a large percentage of our students, this class marks the first time they have read a book from cover to cover in English, or the first time they have organized an essay in a logical sequence. I run this class with heavy scaffolding for the students so they can learn what skills are important and how to focus their time so that they can get the most out of their work.

I have also used this class as an opportunity to start opening students’ eyes to digital literacy. As a class, we begin working with a wide variety of digital tools to help students succeed, from structured organization through Canvas to experimenting with Google for Education.

ESL 370 helps students see the difference between expectations in school in their own country or an American high school and what they have to do to succeed in college or university. I believe my firm yet friendly approach allows them to step into the requirements. Though the class can be overwhelming for students at times, I work hard to set up a safety net so that students can feel confident in exploring the language and the skills we develop in class.

I am a firm believer that the classroom is a laboratory for experimentation, and that students should not feel afraid to make mistakes if it helps them achieve their goals. It is my hope that my approach to running this “lab” allows the students students the freedom to experiment and to fall down so they may stand up and succeed.