I learned a lot about teaching and story telling as I made the series Times Tables Make Sense. A comicbook was a new form for me, a form that uses few words, many fewer than I use when I’m actually in front of a class. But as I was making the comic, I had the same questions in mind: what do they know, what do I want them to learn, and how are we all feeling about it.
I like to get clear with students what the task at hand is.
We can’t all get to the same destination unless it is circled on the map.
Here’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
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
When a feeling is not a feeling…
I don’t trust words that end in “-ed” when they are used to describe emotions.
Take “loved” for example, as in “I feel loved.” Well, no, “loved” is not a feeling. That sentence really means that you have noticed that someone loves you. What you feel is another thing. You may feel happy, joyful, ecstatic; you may feel love in return for the person who loves you.
On the other hand, if the person who loves you is a spouse that you want to divorce, you may feel guilty, sad, impatient, angry…. If the person who says “I love you,” is stalking you, you may be afraid, angry, anxious, curious…. Continue reading
Frank commented on my post “I don’t give grades” by saying “Agreed – spend more time helping students who care – and waste less time on students who don’t.”
Frank’s comment doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t sort students into those who care and those who don’t care, because I know that every student cares. Continue reading
Ken was restless. His legs and feet moved under the table so much that the whole table shook. Other students complained about the noise and the shaking. Ken was an extreme case, but ABE/Adult literacy classes are full of students who cannot easily sit still, and whose restlessness interferes with the learning of others. Continue reading
Sylvia Ashton-Warner with children in classroom, ca 1951
Reference Number: PAColl-2522-2-001
I have roots in New Zealand. Not physical roots—none of my ancestors came from New Zealand, or, as far as I know, ever visited there. But the roots of my ideas about teaching came from Sylvia Ashton-Warner, whose book Teacher I read in the mid ’60’s. She has been the single most important influence on my teaching practice.
She wrote about teaching pre-school and primary school children, and as far as I know never taught adult literacy or wrote about helping adults improve their literacy skills. But her ideas about creativity, what she called “organic teaching,” her respect for and celebration of the ideas that came from her students, not from curriculum and received texts, all of which went along with solid practical advice about classroom management, schedules, and “discipline,” spoke to me when I was in training to become an elementary school teacher, and came back to me when, much later, I started in adult literacy. Continue reading
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
For the past week or so, I’ve been writing about five strategies for developing stronger relationships 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?
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