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.

Number 1Respect

Respect for them, and for every decision they took, every choice they made. Respect for myself.

Number 2Resistance

They come back to school, that place of previous failures and humiliation, because they want what they think I offer—the key to a better life. I offer them different ways of learning: group work; choice; meaningful work; I invite them to join the teaching team and make decisions about how and what they will learn. But they resist my best efforts to do things differently, because it is not what they expect, and it scares them. They refuse to risk going back again into that position of failure and humiliation. I need to acknowledge their resistance publicly, to honour it, and to work with it. I need to recognize my own resistance, too, because it gets in the way.

Number 3Reality

My work is most successful when I listen to what is really going on. Speak the unspoken thoughts and feelings. Do reading and writing that is real, in the real world. Find an audience for the voice; find information in response to questions; say yes to every chance to move the literacy work into the community, and bring the community into the class.

15 thoughts on “Back to Basics

  1. Hi Kate,

    It may not be the case in your school or classes, but a slightly different perspective on Resistance may be resistance to (perceived) change for the sake of change. What I mean is in International schools in particular, turnover tends to be a little more routine and a little higher than might otherwise be experienced and because International School teachers have a much wider background in which to draw from many end up appearing to want to change things to ‘their way’ as soon as they arrive. For local teachers and students it can be quite a merrigoround, and therefore can often be Resistant to change for the sake of change…

    Which is not to say that change is a bad thing, just that they experience change so often that they are sort of fatigued about it.

  2. Kate, I wanted to say thank you for starting your blog–I feel very lucky that you are choosing to share your considerable expertise with us. I’ve been reading your archives and learning so much. I have been on an education leave this past year, but I am really looking forward to going back to teaching this fall and implementing some of the teaching ideas and philosophies you write about here.

    • Thanks for being such a careful reader. I have been enjoying the summer this month, but am thinking about how usefully to start posting again in the fall.

      I’d love to hear from you about how things go in the fall–isn’t August grand for thinking about going back to class?

  3. Very well written and your self-reflection is excellent. I congratulate you in your teaching and learning endeavors!

  4. What a wonderful “statement of purpose” which has withstood the test of time and reality..Your stories illustrate how it works with wit and humility, and tell the tale. Your generosity which always shares the victory with the truly victorious, the student who prevails against all odds. You have stayed so true to this vision. Way to go !!! and write on !!

love to hear your ideas or experiences!

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