I got an e-mail from Dave, who attended my workshop last week on “Putting Learners in the Driver’s Seat.” He asked, “If the learner is in the driver’s seat, where is the teacher?” I’m going to answer by telling the story of Lucie’s success at speaking in public.
Lucie won the class lottery! She got to come with me to Edmonton to present the Never Fail Writing Method that we used in our basic literacy program. A plane trip, three nights in a hotel, and a glimpse of the big city, Continue reading
The question of standard English is a thorny one for those of us who work with adult learners, and you will hear many opinions about how we should teach students who come from communities who use non-standard English.
Standard English is nothing more or less than the language spoken by people who have been educated in the mainstream system. It is not “correct” in itself, and in fact is constantly changing. For example, it is now considered correct to sometimes split an infinitive, and in Canada most people manage to get through days, weeks, and even months, without using “whom.”
Slowly, over the years, because I was willing to learn, my students taught me a new set of three R’s—Respect, Resistance and Reality.
First, Respect. Respect for them, and for every decision they took, every choice they made. Respect for myself.
Second, Resistance. 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.
Third, Reality. 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.