by Phil Bartle, PhD
4. Models For Teaching Should Not Be Taken From Schools For Children:
When we do things, like teaching, we often use models of behaviour. Sometimes we deliberately obtain these models from role models, older or other people we respect and consciously want to emulate. Other times we are not even conscious that we are using models, and just do things that intuitively seem "right" to do. These are based upon our and other people's assumptions about what is, and what we should do.
There is a danger, therefore, if our only experience with learning, and especially with learning how to read and to write, is school. The danger is that we may be using school as our only source of models for teaching literacy.
We need to make an effort to recall how things are done at school, and carefully discard those things which are not appropriate to adults, and those things which will hinder adults from learning literacy. These include but are not limited to: insisting upon discipline, ordering students about, assuming that the teacher is always right, acting as fountains of wisdom and knowledge.
In some, but not all, schools, teachers insult students in front of other students, they physically punish students, they verbally punish students, they speak in an arrogant and superior manner to students, they criticise students, and they belittle students. While today many of these behaviours of teachers and officials are fortunately being removed from schools around the world, they must be avoided meticulously when teaching literacy to adults.
Consider alternative ways of interacting with the literacy participants. Do not hold classes; instead hold workshops for discussing suggestions and planning activities, and organise field trips and projects for carrying out those activities. The pattern suggested here is to have two types of sessions.
The first kind would be like a meeting. It should not be called a class, although you may be using a classroom as a venue. A "meeting" can be used to identify needs, to identify levels of literacy already attained by the participants, to generate ideas for learning projects, to plan those project, and to follow up with activities after the field trips for those projects.
The second kind of session would be a "field trip" or "project" that the participants designed in a group in the first kind of session. This could be a trip to the shore to write names and prices of fish as they are brought in. It could be a trip to a market to do the same with items sold in the marketplace. It could be a trip to a kraal (coral) to identify cattle. It could be a trip to a farm to identify crops. It could be a trip to a kitchen to identify utensils or recipes. It could be a trip to a building site to identify tools, workers or the building process.
Encourage your participants to be creative, remembering that the content should be appropriate to their situations.
All of this requires a high degree of participation among your participants. Their "doing" of these things – ie planning, implementing, and following up of an activity (field trip, project) – is the effort (they must make) needed to empower them. Do not make decisions for them; when they make decisions, they become stronger in making decisions. They become more empowered, stronger.
Your participants are not pupils and are not children; they are equals and partners in an honourable and challenging endeavour. Never forget that, and always behave towards them like that.
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© Copyright 1967, 1987, 2007 Phil Bartle