Conversations of the Mind: The Uses of Journal Writing for Second-Language Learners

By Rebecca Williams Mlynarczyk | Go to book overview

8
The Conversation Continues

There is neither a first nor a last word and there are no limits to the dialogic context (it extends into the boundless past and the boundless future). Even past meanings, that is, those born in the dialogue of past centuries, can never be stable (finalized, ended once and for all)--they will always change (be renewed) in the process of subsequent future development of the dialogue. ( Bakhtin, 1986)

As I begin to write the final chapter, I wish I could meet again with Roberto, Cliff, Maribel, Lan, and Kiyoko. I'd like to talk to them about their experiences in college and in life, to ask whether they think any lasting changes resulted from the journals they kept for my course. As often happens in teachers' lives, however, the students have slipped out of reach. Several years ago as I was completing the initial research report, I was able to contact Roberto, Maribel, and Lan by phone. In those brief conversations I asked about their college life in the year following the interviews.

Because of financial problems, Roberto had taken a full-time job and was attending classes at night. As a result of his busy schedule, his grades had slipped, and he was eagerly anticipating the fall semester, when he intended to enroll again in college as a full-time student. Journal writing had continued to play an important though inconstant role in his life in the intervening months. Sometimes he had felt the need to write about personal problems, and he had worked out a way to do this during his lunch hours in the office where he worked. He wrote freely on one of the office computers and then, feeling relieved after expressing his thoughts in writing, deleted the file to preserve his privacy.

Maribel was still enrolled in college full time but was having problems in some of her courses. She was especially worried about her communications course because she had failed the midterm exam. She told me that she had difficulty with the course reading. The assignments were long, and she had trouble sorting the main ideas from the details so that she could effectively review for tests. After learning the results of the midterm, she scheduled an

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