Building Strong Relationships with Learners

Building Strong Relationships with Learners

For the past week or so, I’ve been writing about five strategies for developing stronger rteaching adult literacy elationships with learners:

All five strategies are written up in one article published in the ELMO Review. (Click on the image.)

Any thoughts on these strategies as a whole? What’s your most useful strategy or habit for building strong relationships with adult learners?

Say How You Feel

Say How You Feel

Like most of us I can’t hide my feelings. They show on my face, or in the set of my shoulders, or the sweaty palm prints I leave on the desk or table. Most students (like anybody else) will assume that my feelings have something to do with them. Here’s an example:

I’m in the middle of teaching and the student asks me to explain something again. (He still doesn’t get it after the third time.) I’m about to start the explanation when I notice the clock and suddenly remember that I have to cut this session short for an emergency meeting about a crisis in the program.

All my feelings about the meeting come over me–worry, wonder, anger, confusion, etc. These feelings show on my face or in my body–tight lips, far-away look, and hunched shoulders. Continue reading

800% Improvement

800% Improvement

At the end of the first week of class, I did a round, asking people what surprised them about the first week.

Billy’s response was, “I’m surprised I’m still here. Usually I drop out of these things after the first morning.”

He didn’t come back on Monday, and I never saw him again.

So there you are. Billy, a veteran of starting many programs–back to school, life skills, job readiness–had attended eight sessions the first week, instead of dropping out after the first morning Continue reading

You Don’t Know Me

Today I’m re-blogging. (Who knew that I could do such a thing, or that the word existed?) Here’s a piece from the Florida Literacy Coalition’s Blog, by Armando J. Gutierrez, Ed.D., which appeared today. I think it speaks for itself.

Florida Literacy Blog

You watched me come to your class just like any other student. You greeted me with a warm smile and caring eyes. You asked me to have a seat in your inviting classroom. I watched you speak words I didn’t understand. I watched as the other students raised their hands to question your words. I sat in the cold seat as the minutes went by like hours. I heard you call my name, and I waited for you to ask me, who I was.

You don’t know the painstaking ordeal it took for me to get here this morning. You don’t know how it feels to wake up in the dark or the fear in my heart when I have to wait for the bus. You don’t know that I have no umbrella, or why my clothes are wet and unkempt when I enter your class. You think I can’t…

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Standard English

Standard English

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 the language spoken by people who have been educated in the mainstream system. That means it is the language invented by people who have power, who are wealthy and who are white. It is by definition not the language invented by our students.

Standard English 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.”

Incorrect, sloppy, and ugly Continue reading

Just Say “I Pass.”

Just Say “I Pass.”

When I took bridge lessons many years ago, our teacher asked us to go home and practice bidding. “Just look in the mirror,” he instructed us, “And say, ‘I pass.’ That is the bid that you’ll make most often.  And that is the bid that will keep you out of trouble as a beginner.”

We don’t play bridge in my literacy or ABE classes, but I do teach people to say the magic phrase, “I pass.” My second classroom rule is “You can pass if you want to.” Continue reading

A Cheater Learns a Lesson

A Cheater Learns a Lesson

The first time I failed at school I was over 30. Don’t get me wrong. I have failed at many things–relationships, do-it-yourself projects, exercise programs, baking–but I finished school and university with good marks, without doing much work.

So when I found myself in a new city (Vancouver) with no job and few prospects, going back to school seemed like a good idea. I enrolled in a community college program to become a court reporter, and started to fail almost immediately. Continue reading

What’s in It for Me?

What’s in It for Me?

Two people commented on my last post, about how working with Bernice got me started on marking for confidence.

First, Evelyn said that she thought many teachers would have seen Bernice as “resistant or difficult or careless or smartass.” I think most of those judgements are accurate.

She was resistant–she did not want me to “go over” her work with her; she wanted to keep herself out of a situation she had doubtless been in many times before, where a teacher pointed out where she had gone wrong and expected her to fix her errors. Continue reading