Back to Basics

A year ago today I began writing this blog, with the goal of sharing some of the things I’ve learned about teaching adult literacy and numeracy. On this anniversary, I’m re-playing my first post–still relevant, I think.

Slowly, over the years, because I was willing to learn, my students gave me a fresh take on the three R’s. I learned that to teach well, I needed to think about respect, resistance and reality. Continue reading

Power Share

all in it togetherHere’s another story about sharing power with adult literacy students, to go with the one I posted last week called “Who’s in Charge Here?” Continue reading

Who’s in Charge Here?

Arriving Saltspring Island photo credit: irfy via photopin cc

Arriving Saltspring Island

I was just one of the crowd of people on the trip—old and young, fat and thin, First Nations and white people, male and female. We were off by bus and ferry to Saltspring Island for the day. My job was to blend in, to let myself be represented by students. They were in charge, and I was along for the ride. I didn’t know it would be so hard.   Continue reading


Plutchik-wheelWhen a feeling is not a feeling…

I don’t trust words that end in “-ed” when they are used to describe emotions.

Take “loved” for example, as in “I feel loved.” Well, no, “loved” is not a feeling. That sentence really means that you have noticed that someone loves you. What you feel is another thing. You may feel happy, joyful, ecstatic; you may feel love in return for the person who loves you.

On the other hand, if the person who loves you is a spouse that you want to divorce, you may feel guilty, sad, impatient, angry…. If the person who says “I love you,” is stalking you, you may be afraid, angry, anxious, curious…. Continue reading

Neither Kind Nor Patient

patient dog Morgue fileThe last time I had my teaching evaluated by my administration, I was disappointed. Although I was happy to get a grade of “excellent” (highest on a five point scale), the comments from administration made me gag: “Kate is a kind and a patient teacher,” and Continue reading

A Healthy Disrespect

book from Morgue file000257720369Adult literacy and GED students have enormous respect for text–too much respect, I think.

They may fear text, or be confused by it. They may loathe the printed word, and/or ignore it. They may have a hundred different coping skills to get around the fact that they do not read well, but they respect text. Continue reading

Reading from Life

“What reading materials are appropriate for adult literacy students?”

reader MKat posted this question on my blog the other day, and went on to say, “I’m teaching my first teenage reading student now, and forcing ‘See Spot Run’ down his throat is not sitting well with me.”

My first, general answer would be “anything that the student is interested and you can stomach.” I would draw the line at porn and hate, but other teachers will have other boundaries.

Notice I said “anything you can stomach,” meaning that there is lots of reading material suitable for adult students that is not uplifting or useful, that has language and subject matter not usually considered appropriate for school use. If you can stomach it, and the student likes it, you are ready to proceed. Continue reading