It’s happened a few times now.
Everything appears to be going well. The students are contributing enthusiastically, writing when asked, chatting in pairs when that is requested, and contributing to the brainstorm of ideas I’m hurriedly writing on the board.
I thoroughly enjoy working with adults who are returning to study. So often they are unreasonably nervous. They don’t yet know how competent they are, so they feel quite entitled to be quivering with uncertainty. My job is to assist them to accept that they’ve 'got what it takes' and to unearth the skills they don’t yet know they have.
We discuss how adults learn, the different learning styles, and when time permits, we also squeeze in some light-hearted quizzes. It’s all in the service of unpacking the mystery of expectations at the tertiary level, and ensuring success is attainable.
Sometimes however, things go a little askew. You see, when discussing learning styles, it quickly becomes apparent that many adults I work with have grown up in the “sit still, do as I say, and don’t ask questions” classroom.
As you can imagine, for someone who is for instance a kinaesthetic learner, this hasn’t worked to their advantage, and their schooling has been less than ideal. Some struggle on suffering in silence, some withdraw completely, and others act up and get kicked out at the earliest opportunity.
I’ve learnt to keep a tissue box on hand when presenting this particular workshop. It’s not that I’m a meanie, and bring students to tears. But often there’s a release of pent up tension that results in weeping, and on occasion outright sobbing.
Tears of grief, tears of sadness at schooling wasted because teachers haven’t known about or have been unable to accommodate different styles of learning. Sometimes this is due to ignorance, often there were too many children in a class, and occasionally… well, some teachers had lost their passion for teaching, and possibly should have changed careers.
But often the tears are those of relief. Some adults are so relieved to discover they aren’t stupid. It’s a revelation for them to discover they simply learn differently. They feel validated, reassured, and empowered. They are ready to forge ahead with new tools and a different perspective.
What a privilege not only to help adult students realize that learning can be fun, but that academic success is within their grasp.