The Joy of the Difficult

The Joy of the Difficult

I remember early on in my teaching ABE career, I ran into a colleague who wanted to have stories and articles with happy endings so we didn’t add to the misery of the students’ lives. I couldn’t then tell her why that seemed so wrong-headed to me. She didn’t want anyone upset and wanted the class to be comfortable for everyone—and I suspect most of all for her. —Evelyn Battell, comment on an earlier post

Many ABE instructors will give the same reasons as Evelyn’s colleague for not wanting to use “difficult” material with their students: it will upset the students, and it will make the teacher uncomfortable. The reasons come as two faces of a weighted coin: What is most comfortable for the teacher often turns out to be what is “best for the students.” Continue reading

Joy in Disguise

Joy in Disguise

dancing for joyThe 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

We Value the Joy

We Value the Joy

teaching joyI once made an appointment with a counsellor provided by my employee benefit package for people having difficulties with situations at work. He asked me what was bothering me.

“I’ve lost the joy,” I said. He looked like he needed more from me, in order to understand my problem.

“I expect joy from my work,” I said, “And the joy has disappeared.”

He looked at me like I was crazy. I knew then that he wasn’t going to be any help, because he was used to people who wanted job satisfaction, but he thought it was really too much to ask for joy.

I knew I had right on my side, because it was there, in the statement of values our Department had written:

“We value the joy that comes from our work with students.”

The paragraph beginning “We value the joy…” means that we expect joy. We work to make it possible. We recognize it when it appears. We cherish it.

Katherine Gotthardt talks about “teaching highs” and I know what she means. That’s part of the joy!

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