The 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
“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
If you’re trying to have a more equal relationship with students, refusing to give advice is the best policy. Here’s my advice about giving advice to adult literacy, adult basic education or GED learners.
Watch the video, from Literacy Nova Scotia’s collection of videos called The Teaching Toolbox.
This is the last of five strategies for developing stronger relationships with learners. See also “Listen,” “Yes Means Yes,” “Make Your Teaching Transparent,” and “Say How You Feel.”
(You will find all five written up here.)