It seems that “trigger warnings” are everywhere these days, from the usual “This program contains crude language and sexual content; viewer discretion is advised,” to “Trigger warning: rape, extreme verbal abuse, and torture.”
You might think if ever there was a place for a trigger warning, it’s an ABE, adult literacy or GED class where teachers daily work with students who have experiences of violence:
- those whose childhood experiences of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse made it difficult for them to succeed in the K-12 system;
- those who came from war zones, who may have been tortured and who saw loved ones killed or wounded;
- those who, as youth or adults, were or still are involved in gangs or other criminal activity;
- those who are currently living with violence from their boyfriend or spouse.
- those whose schools lives were miserable because of taunts and bullying from students and teachers because they did not succeed at school tasks.
“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
Scenario 1: Mohan tells you he has an appointment tomorrow at the financial aid office, scheduled for the middle of your class. He adds that he is sorry that he couldn’t get the appointment at any other time. The next day, he arrives at your class on time, slips out to go to his appointment, and returns quietly half an hour later.
Scenario 2: You explain an activity, divide the class Continue reading
I was a student today, at my aquafit class. I was a student who resisted, who didn’t participate, who went missing. You know, one of those students who makes you wonder why you ever wanted to teach.
We had a teacher who has taught our class only a few times, a lovely, enthusiastic teacher with a bounce in her step and encouragement in her voice. Continue reading
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