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by Phil Bartle, PhD

3. Adults Are Not Children – Different Approaches Are Needed:

It is easy to think that we, when we are teaching people, are the adults, while those being taught are children. After all, that is the situation in a school, isn’t it?

Then we would be in error. When we are teaching literacy, those being taught are adults, not children. Because they do not know how to read and write, does not mean they are in any way less than us.

We must make sure we do not give them the impression, by our body movements, tone of voice, or phrasing of our sentences, that we are some how better (senior, superior, more powerful) than they are. To do so will "turn them off" (discourage them) so that we might lose them, and fail in teaching literacy.

When teaching adults, we must consciously remember that they are not children and we must avoid the easy imagination that they are. As adults, they must be – and must be treated as – our equals. We do not have to spend a lot of our effort and time in doing what we do when we teach children.

Children are learning many more things than the subject matter; they are learning about power, about getting along in the world, about community, and how to discipline their random desires. Adult literacy participants are not, and we should avoid automatic and thoughtless behaviour that implies to them that they are children. Much of the effort, time and thought of the teacher at school is spent to ensure the children are well behaved, and that they listen to the teacher. None of your time should be spent that way. To do so will be quickly detected by the adult participants, and they will respond by not learning what we have to offer.

If we can show the participants that we know them as adults and as our equals, they will respond better to our methods in guiding them towards literacy

Notes on all of the above (long document)

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