Recently, Southern Regional Technical College’s (SRTC) Director of Adult Education Melissa Burtle announced that Mattie Grant was the college’s Adult Education Teacher of the Year. Grant has a career in education and literacy that spans over forty years. In that time, she has developed a unique approach to adult education and literacy. In her own words:
“My classroom practices are based on the quality of how well a student listens and how well a student communicates. In 1979, I attended a weeklong workshop that discussed how adults learn. My attendance at that workshop completely changed my views on educating adults. Dr. Jane Vella taught me that adults learn best when 1) they are in dialogue, 2) they are engaged, 3) they are the decision maker of their education and when 4) their cultural needs are understood and 5) their personal needs are met.
From that workshop, I learned that motivation begins with the skillful manipulation of language. Also that all information shared between people is filtered through and affected by personality, feelings, security, anxiety level, self-esteem, and culture. It is important to know that meaning and direction has to be effectively communicated through all these barriers in order to arrive at a level of their understanding in order for them to be productive. I combined my LVA student-centered background with my new learning and changed my classroom practices from a “power over” to a “power with” attitude. I stopped being a teacher and partnered with my students to facilitate their learning experience. My adult education students who come to my class ready to learn are excellent candidates for goal setting as a means to educational achievement. The fact that I am interested in what they want to learn opens the door to dialogue. My experience has led me to believe that any attempt to better the motivation of students is destined to fail in the absence of effective listening and communication skills.
Therefore, my lessons are developed to stimulate participation through dialogue. Because adults come enter to the classroom with a variety of experience, initially my lesson plans are created to build on skills they have developed through previous experiences. After they have made progress with familiar activities; to ensure that they are continually challenged; my lesson plans increase in length and difficulty over time. For instance, reading selections become longer; the content, vocabulary and sentence structure become more demanding and sophisticated. Exercises and writing activities are introduced to build on and expand their knowledge and abilities. My expectations are that my students will experience a sense of progress as they learn to apply their skills to new situations.
I put extra care in choosing materials to ensure that whatever I choose centers on activities that hold their interest. I focus on mature and diverse adult materials and resources with attention to information that will 1) increase background knowledge, with 2) emphasis on decision making and reasoning.
Theodore Roosevelt wrote “Nobody cares how much you know until’ they know how much you care.” I consider my work as an educator a privilege. I am humbled that I have been blessed to have the privilege of being an adult education teacher. Teaching gives me the opportunity to touch so many lives and gives me joy to know that I have played a small part in a life changing experience. However, the bonus of being an adult education teacher is that I awaken each morning excited and motivated to get to school in anticipation of what I am going to learn from my adult students.”
For more information about the FREE Adult Education and GED readiness courses at SRTC, click here: https://southernregional.edu/adult-education-ged