It is with great pride and pleasure that I welcome you to Conversations of the Mind: The Uses of Journal Writing for Second-Language Learners--pride because I had the good fortune to sponsor the original version of this text as a New York University dissertation, and pleasure because I have just had the chance to renew acquaintance with Rebecca Mlynarczyk and her students by means of a powerfully revised and extended version of that original text.
Chief among those pleasures is the power and clarity of the voice I hear, which reminds me of the many hours I have spent both discussing teaching and learning with Rebecca and reading her learning logs. As she points out in the beginning of Conversations of the Mind, her interest in student journals was sparked by her experience of their power as learning tools for her. The ongoing transformation of her teaching that she reports in this book began with a transformation of her learning experiences in our doctoral program. She had proved herself to be both an exemplary learner/teacher and extraordinarily gifted at sharing her explorations, her struggles, and her successes. Those of you who have not yet met Rebecca have a treat in store as you join these Conversations.
In addition to meeting Rebecca, you'll also get a chance to meet her students and watch them learn and grow as speakers/writers of English, and as people. Their stories are individual, of course, but they resonate with those of other students in this class, and other students Rebecca has taught before and since. The portraits are so finely and engagingly drawn that they also enable teacher/readers to compare them to our own, which in turn allows us to use them to reflect on our teaching while Rebecca is reflecting on hers.
This is profoundly a book about teaching and learning, but it is not a collection of lesson plans or even a method as such. It is, rather, the description of a reflective practitioner in action as she tries to understand how what she does as a teacher affects--and effects--her students. Equally,