The Grammar Hatchet

The Grammar Hatchet

Actually me, in front, 70s.

Actually me, in front, demonstration, with Nancy Rosenberg
Ottawa Citizen, Apr. 7 1980

I had a taste, once, of someone using grammar to do a hatchet job on something that was full of meaning for me. Continue reading

Survival Strategies Come First

Survival Strategies Come First

Jenny HorsmanThe assignment was to make a graphic representation of the plot development in a novel we were reading together in class. To this end, I had assembled some supplies on a table in front of the room: various kinds of large sheets of paper, felt pens, pencil crayons, glue sticks, stickers and labels of the kind scrapbookers use, some collage materials, etc.

We talked about various possibilities, such as diagrams, time lines, and flow charts, Continue reading

Every Student Cares

Every Student Cares

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

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

Silence Sends a Message

Silence Sends a Message

Whenever we talk about safety in the classroom, the question always comes up: How much can or should an instructor do?

I think most people would agree that the instructor’s job is to establish a tone of respectful discussion and to encourage everyone to participate. Going a step further, I have been writing recently about how I work to make it safe for students to decide if, when and how much they will participate (Just Say Pass and We Wait for Naomi). Continue reading

Learning and Violence dot Net

I often link to resources on LearningandViolence.net, so I thought I’d give it a little blog post of its own.
Learningandviolence.net is a treasure trove for people who work in adult basic education, literacy or essential skills programs.  Many students in such programs have experienced violence in their past, or are still dealing with violence now. And violence affects learning. Continue reading

We Wait for Naomi

We Wait for Naomi

Naomi started in September, a quiet young woman with a wary eye. She began to say “I pass” immediately upon hearing the classroom rule, Pass if you want to.”

We were team teaching the literacy class, in two interconnecting rooms. In one we held group sessions in reading, writing, math and science; in the other students could work individually on assignments or on private literacy work (filling out forms, reading and responding to business letters, etc.). We teachers scheduled ourselves so that we each taught some of the group sessions, and spent the rest of our time in the other room, helping students individually. Students were free to choose to take the scheduled classes, or to spend time working on their own. Some students spent all their time in the group sessions, and did assignments at home; most divided their time between the two rooms.

Naomi was different. She chose not to go to any scheduled classes. Every hour or so, as the group activity changed, one of us would invite her to join the next group session.  She would pass. The teachers figured it might take her a few days to get comfortable enough to join the group. Continue reading