Trigger Warnings 3: An Outlier

Trigger Warnings 3: An Outlier

In this series of related posts with the title “Trigger Warnings” I am talking about strategies for using “difficult” material in an adult literacy or ABE class. I’ll get to why it is important to use such material in a later post.

sun 5684697184_d397407927Usually I was aware that a piece of material might be uncomfortable or very difficult for some students, and could prepare accordingly, but once I was caught by surprise by the need for a trigger warning. As I think about it, my surprise surprises me. Did I think everyone would be comfortable talking about menstruation in an ABE class? Or did I bury any misgivings because I wanted to right an imbalance my feminist soul had noticed and railed against? It happened like this:

In an upper level ABE class one year, two women students came to me with a trigger warning that I ought to have anticipated, but didn’t. Continue reading

Trigger Warnings from Students: Standard Procedure

Trigger Warnings from Students: Standard Procedure

Welfare Moms

trigger_warningAfter my success with asking First Nations students to decide whether or not to use a video about one reserve’s struggle against alcoholism, I began to use the same procedure with other content that I thought might be problematic. I remember a video and an article about a group of mothers on welfare who were fighting back against the way they were portrayed in the media, and the way they were treated by social workers and others who had power to grant or deny them benefits. Continue reading

Trigger Warnings

Trigger Warnings

trigger_warningIt seems that “trigger warnings” are everywhere these days, from the usual “This program contains crude language and sexual content; viewer discretion is advised,” to “Trigger warning: rape, extreme verbal abuse, and torture.”

You might think if ever there was a place for a trigger warning, it’s an ABE, adult literacy or GED class where teachers daily work with students who have experiences of violence:

  • those whose childhood experiences of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse made it difficult for them to succeed in the K-12 system;
  • those who came from war zones, who may have been tortured and who saw loved ones killed or wounded;
  • those who, as youth or adults, were or still are involved in gangs or other criminal activity;
  • those who are currently living with violence from their boyfriend or spouse.
  • those whose schools lives were miserable because of taunts and bullying from students and teachers because they did not succeed at school tasks.

Continue reading

Neither Kind Nor Patient

This is my most popular post, which has been viewed 4,336 times, nearly three times as many as the next most popular post. It reflects the difference between what you see and what you get when you look at good teaching, and captures a worry about how the world perceives the adult literacy practitioner. Since I first posted it, I have added the last sentence, based on a perceptive comment by Jenny Horsman. Thanks, Jenny!

When I chose blogging as a way to share my ideas about teaching, the question of who is reading the blog popped up, as well as the related question, “How many are reading?” I’ve learned a lot about finding/keeping an audience since I started this project. Someone posted this piece to MetaFilter, which brought many readers to the site, which in turn caught the interest of WordPress editors, who chose it to be “freshly pressed,” and this in turn brought many more readers to the site. I had a taste of internet “fame” and discovered that I was even more vain than I had previously thought.

It’s my most famous piece. Is it my best? Is it typical of the themes that I write about? Questions for me to ponder as I look at my blog as a whole.

Working in Adult Literacy

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

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Blog Review

My goal–to share everything I know about teaching before I retire. Have I reached my goal? What more do I want to say? I’m looking back at old posts, sorting, highlighting and making new connections.

Literacy Enquirer: Bring Back Copian

Copian

(NOTE: the links, names of ministers and Prime Ministers, government departments, etc. are all out of date and no longer work. Alas, the protests about the loss of Copian were fruitless.  However, the holdings of its sizeable library are now being held by the CDEACF and may be downloaded there. May 2020)

In the midst of my despair at the closing of Copian, I was glad to find this post from the Literacy Enquirer: Bring Back Copian. Tracy Defoe gives some great strategies for working to get funding restored. I especially like her idea of showing the demand for Copian material by asking OLES (Office of literacy and Essential Skills) for what we need, all day, everyday. I’ll use the online form she suggests, and I’ll tweet my requests to @SocDevSoc and @kenneyjason as well, using the hashtag #BringbackCopian.

Here are Tracy’s suggestions. Pick some you can have fun with, and can keep up over the long haul!

M. Elisabeth Barot,
Education Programme Officer,
The Canadian Commission for UNESCO
(http://unesco.ca/en/home-accueil/contact)
Office of Literacy and Essential Skills
Employment and Social Development Canada
140 Promenade du Portage, Phase IV
Mailstop 515
Gatineau QC
K1A 0J9
They won’t know we miss it if they don’t hear that we are looking for resources and publications. – Tracy Defoe.

Get the full text of Tracy’s post here.

Jenny Horsman for TEDx Toronto

Jenny Horsman

Jenny Horsman

My friend and colleague, Jenny Horsman, is applying to give a talk at TEDx Toronto.

June 30 is the deadline for nominations from the community. Get yours in today. TEDx Toronto

I have often referred to her work on the impacts of violence on learning, and wrote a post about her website which is full of information and resources on the Continue reading

Joy in Disguise

Joy in Disguise

dancing for joyThe opportunity for joy often comes disguised as a request for advice. When I refuse to give advice, when I take a moment to ask a question instead, a space opens up to let the joy of teaching in.

A student working on a piece of writing asks, “What should I do? I don’t know if I should explain that Tom is my boss and my uncle right here at the start, or if I should leave it out until closer to the end.”

Or maybe it’s a more mundane question Continue reading

The Perils of Giving Advice

The Perils of Giving Advice

no smoking posters vertical“I can’t decide,” Maria said. “I don’t want people to smoke in my apartment any more, so I’m making a sign for the door. Should I say, “Please don’t smoke here” or “Butt Out”?

She had come to class with a project from home (the best kind of adult literacy work, generated by personal need and totally student driven).

She was asking for my advice, which put me in a very gratifying position: there I was, with someone tacitly acknowledging my expertise, and waiting to be told what to do. She had my ego right where it wanted to be!

“Always better to be polite when you’re asking people to do something…” The words were almost out of my mouth when my imagination was caught by the brevity and wit of “Butt Out.”

Suddenly I was sharing her dilemma–I couldn’t decide either.

It was the dilemma Marie presented, the dilemma of not knowing what advice to give, Continue reading

The More Things Change…

from Our Story: The Realities of Working in the Literacy and Essential Skills Field; summary of survey by LESWORKFORCE.ca

from Our Story: The Realities of Working in the Literacy and Essential Skills Field; http://www.LESWORKFORCE.ca

Part-time work, insecure employment, expectations that practitioners will put in many unpaid hours, younger practitioners leaving the field, practitioners not able to earn a living, practitioners in one type of program being paid much less for the same kind of work as practitioners in another– all issues that we were agitating about when I first entered ABE/Adult Literacy in the 80’s, and still, it seems, relevant.

Three things crossed my desk recently that highlighted some of the same issues in the field today. First was the Literacy and Essential Skills Labour Market Study recently released by CLLN. Second was a blog post called Adult Educators: An Ageing Profession? by Ann Walker, Director for Education of the Workers’ Educational Association in Great Britain. Continue reading