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

By Rebecca Williams Mlynarczyk | Go to book overview

4
Roberto: Validation Through Connected Knowing

I've been writing for three year in english. I know for a fact now that you can
use writing as your best friend. Writing how you feel can make you realize
many things. You can develop a lot of knowledge and open mind thinking.
No one will listen to you as a notebook can. No one will listen [to] your
thoughts about politics, problems, love, faith as a good diary can. A piece of
paper never lets you down.

The writer of these words is Roberto, an 18-year-old student from Colombia, who at age 13 immigrated to the United States with his family. Roberto attended and later graduated from a public high school. He lives with his parents and younger sister and has an older sister who attended college briefly before getting married. Roberto and his sister represent the first generation in their family to attend college. Upon entering college, Roberto was placed in only one developmental course--the writing class he took with me during his second semester.

The passage quoted above is part of a longer entry written in class on the day I asked the students to begin their journals by freewriting about their attitude toward writing in English. As I look back on Roberto's journal for the semester, I'm not surprised that he was able to explain at the outset why he perceived the journal as personally meaningful. For Roberto, having the chance to freely express his thoughts and feelings in a journal was a validating experience. And, for the most part, this validation occurred as he connected his school learning with his life outside school--his experiences as a "proud Colombian," a struggling immigrant, a language learner, and a young man attempting to come to terms with his personal relationships. Every page of Roberto's journal contained reflection on subjects that were relevant to the course and meaningful to him personally.

Soon after I began reading and responding to the journals, I realized that many of Roberto's entries epitomized what I hoped students would gain from

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