Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Teaching Adults vs Children

I spent several years teach adults before I went back to college to learn how to teach children.

My first steps into teaching adults were a complete disaster. I clearly remember being asked to teach an adult Sunday School class at church. I was 18 years old and teaching people who were far more knowledgeable about pretty much everything. The word intimidated doesn't even begin to describe what I was feeling. Our church is very organized and streamlined, and therefore there is a curriculum for teachers, and a handbook for students. My very first lesson, I stood up and read directly from the teacher manual. It was so awful. There was another teacher who was vibrant and creative. He engaged every single adult and everyone wanted to attend his classes. Our Bishop had to ask people to attend mine. I lasted three months.

I didn't teach adults again another 12 years.

I also didn't teach children either, except for the nursery class of 18 month to three year olds.

Around the time I was asked to teach adults at church again, I also transitioned from being a member of the non-profit La Leche League to being a leader. This meant I had to teach monthly meetings, answer phone calls at all hours, and to train other leaders. LLL also had leader manual with meeting topics, but it was far less specific than the manual for teaching at church. I had to learn how to reach mothers in a way that was meaningful and helpful to them. They were coming to the meetings because they needed something specific. They kept coming because there was a feeling of sisterhood. My lessons mattered because most of the women only came for one or two meetings. I had to maximize their learning and, most importantly build a relationship of trust. Women who needed support from LLL needed to feel comfortable talking to a complete stranger about breastfeeding and ask for help.

When I started teaching at church again. I was asked to attend a teacher class. My eyes were opened! A good lesson began with an object lesson, some comparison of a Gospel topic to an everyday object. In my education program, I learned this was called a hook. Each lesson started with the small idea and built up to the big ideas. Each week, the lessons built on each other. In the education world, we think of this as scaffolding.

As I went through my education classes, learning to be a"real" teacher, many of those same ideas and principles I learned through my church classes, were techniques used in teaching children.

Teaching children is not all that different from teaching adults. The teacher is still competing for attention with devices and all the other things going on in the students' heads. The teacher still needs to find a way to draw the students into the lesson. No one wants to sit in a lecture and listen to a person drone on and on.

I would often post links and lessons on Google Classroom for my students, but once they left my room, it was impossible to follow up and make sure they watched the extra lessons. The students promised they would watch and a quick survey the next class showed very few of them did.

The same thing happens for adults taking online classes. We wait until the last possible minute and if we have time, watch the extra lessons, but more often than not, we try to skate by doing the minimum. That's probably more of a confession than anything else. With five kids at home for the summer, and one leaving for college in six weeks, I have to force myself to do my homework. I have to force myself to do my housework, to be honest. There are so many other things I would rather be doing. I am an adult. I know better! But, when it comes down to it, teaching adults is not all that different than teaching students. And being an adult student, isn't all that different than when I was a young student--except the tech toys are so much better.

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