What have you learned from your students? - Learning Leadership April 18 - May 2nd 2005

"What have you learned from your students?"

In the "Discussion of Learner Leadership" hosted on the Adult Literacy Professional Development Discussion List (formerly known as NIFL-AALPD), participants listed several things that they have learned from students, as well as what teacher qualities they believe matter to adult learners.

From Holly Dilatush:

  • I have learned that in striving to maintain an atmosphere of dignity, of acknowledging the worth and potential of every learner, it is often a tiny, seemingly insignificant detail that is of paramount inspiration and motivation to a learner new to any adult education environment.
  • Examples of such details from personal experience:
    • using green dry erase markers as well as black and blue and red!!!
    • using learners' names and general interests in lesson examples/illustrations (relevance!)
    • NOT rushing out the door the moment class is over (being available/receptive)
    • posting announcements of local community events
    • ATTENDING a community event in THEIR neighborhood
    • having a live plant in the classroom
    • willingly sharing my cell phone #
    • reading stories written by other adult learners
    • celebrating the successes of other adult learners
    • pot-luck events at the learning center,
    • teaching them (or offering to!) to use email
    • guest speakers to the classroom
    • talking about my pets!
    • sharing personal photos (introducing my family to the class)
    • shaking their hands on the first day
  • that genuineness is vital.
  • that so many have minimal, if any, positive prior learning experiences to bolster their confidence.
  • that is a mistake to underestimate ANYONE's intangible participation and contributions (the mantra
  • suspend judgment / suspend reaction" comes to mind!).

From Katrina Hinson:

ALOT! I think this is an integral part for any adult educator - to be open to what your students can teach you. My students bring me into their world - they show me what life is like from their point of view - which in turn allows their life experiences to play into their learning experiences. I'm more open minded and less likely to judge my students on first impressions:

  • to look beyond the physical appearance and even their "rough" personalities to see the student underneath all the layers.
  • to see beyond the obvious and seek what one can become rather than what one currently is at the moment.

From Micki Greer-Jaggars:

I have learned far too much to mention from my students...examples:

  • cultural differences
  • obstacles to learning
  • pressures of raising children
  • problems related to a low income
  • etc.

I believe:

  • learners want their time spent in the adult ed. classes to be worthwhile
  • learners want to see their educational/career-readiness needs/goals met.

Therefore, I believe we teachers can learn an enormous amount from our learners.


From Jeff Fantine:

The most common response that I have heard over the years from learners who have been successful in ABLE programs - in terms of what "made the difference" or "kept them involved 'til they achieved success" - related to:

  • getting respect from the teacher
  • a teacher who cared about them as an individual, and
  • teachers who made them feel like worthwhile people.