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

Power Share

Power Share

all in it togetherHere’s another story about sharing power with adult literacy students, to go with the one I posted last week called “Who’s in Charge Here?” Continue reading

Who’s in Charge Here?

Who’s in Charge Here?

Arriving Saltspring Island photo credit: irfy via photopin cc

Arriving Saltspring Island

I was just one of the crowd of people on the trip—old and young, fat and thin, First Nations and white people, male and female. We were off by bus and ferry to Saltspring Island for the day. My job was to blend in, to let myself be represented by students. They were in charge, and I was along for the ride. I didn’t know it would be so hard.   Continue reading

A Healthy Disrespect

A Healthy Disrespect

http://www.flickr.com/photos/sophiadphotography/8060451224/Adult literacy and GED students have enormous respect for text–too much respect, I think.

They may fear text, or be confused by it. They may loathe the printed word, and/or ignore it. They may have a hundred different coping skills to get around the fact that they do not read well, but they respect text. Continue reading

Reading from Life

Reading from Life

“What reading materials are appropriate for adult literacy students?”

reader MKat posted this question on my blog the other day, and went on to say, “I’m teaching my first teenage reading student now, and forcing ‘See Spot Run’ down his throat is not sitting well with me.”

My first, general answer would be “anything that the student is interested and you can stomach.” I would draw the line at porn and hate, but other teachers will have other boundaries.

Notice I said “anything you can stomach,” meaning that there is lots of reading material suitable for adult students that is not uplifting or useful, that has language and subject matter not usually considered appropriate for school use. If you can stomach it, and the student likes it, you are ready to proceed. Continue reading

Make Your Teaching Transparent

Make Your Teaching Transparent

photo: Nicholas Risch

Much of our work is invisible to adult learners in literacy, Basic Education or GED programs. At worst, they see us as people who know everything and get paid well for showing up for short days and short years and bossing them around.

At best, they think we’re wonderful people who have all the answers and are helpful and patient and don’t do anything between sessions with them. Continue reading

A Teacher Hits the Target

A Teacher Hits the Target

I learned a lot about how to give learning a physical component from the late Christina Patterson. I had always been good at using manipulatives, getting people moving and so on, but Christina pushed physicality to a new level for me.

One year, near the beginning of term, she took a whole class to the local archery club for a morning of lessons from the club pro, followed by lunch.

When they all got back to the classroom, Christina got the discussion started with “What did you learn about hitting a target?” and made a list as students talked. Continue reading

Getting the Most out of Your Teacher

As August slips by, I’m reminded of activities that start the new year, which I put under the heading of “How to manage your teacher,” an essential skill for every student, at whatever level.

One year I asked my department head, the inimitable Vicki Noonan, to help me with an experiment. I said I couldn’t give her any details, but would she come in and give a presentation to my adult literacy class Continue reading

Not a Fairy Tale

Not a Fairy Tale

“Ruby slippers” by RadioFan at English Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

In a recent post I told the story of Naomi, who said “I pass” for more than three months in our basic literacy class, refusing all invitations to take part in group reading, writing and math sessions, or to do any private work in those areas; who instead spent her time making and colouring banners.

She was able to refuse to take part because of the classroom rule “Just say pass,” which is one of my mainstays in teaching adult literacy. She sat on the outskirts of the class, watching, until she could find a way to participate that was comfortable for her. She tested us for three months until she decided she could trust the situation, until she decided it was safe for her. Continue reading