Community Teaching: Being The Plank In The Bridge
Guest post written by: Mac-Z Zurawski
This will be a four part series on community teaching.
This week focuses upon differences in community vs. college classrooms. Each week I will post a new part in the series.
Martin Luther King, Jr., gave us all a means to believe in a dream almost 60 years ago. His teachings were as much an inspiration then as they are now. We are all inspired by someone or something. From a chance meeting with a political figure to that moment when you realized your child was beginning to read. We all work our magic in mysterious ways to motivate ourselves and others to create a concrete reality from a dreamed thought. Every small business owner can recall the day they opened their doors for the first time. Every teacher can remember their first day of class. It’s the hard work in between the first time you thought you could and the day you did. The planks of the bridge which we crossover can be many or few depending on where you are and where you want to go. My dream was to be a plank in the bridge for the motivated dreamer. I wanted to be that teacher that found a students learning niche, the teacher who stayed after class to provide individual support.
The community classroom was where I found my dream. I teach various classes in community center classrooms to enable my motivated volunteer students to bridge the gap between dreams and reality. Whether we meet in a community room of a former hotel turned community center or a renovated former Catholic School, we come together to learn about ourselves, life and making it. This is a tip sheet on my experiences which we could all use as starting points or reminders. As teachers of adults, we need to remember that our volunteer students are different from the college classroom. Yes, they are all adults but attend class for different reasons.
Volunteerism: Making a motivated difference
The time spent in a community classroom is inspirational for different reasons than a college classroom. First, we are all volunteers. The majority of community classroom teachers are volunteers who rush off to class after work. Our students are the same. This leads us, as teachers, to remember that we must maintain inspirational activities as encouragement to attendance. We encourage our students to return, not for a grade, but to have some fun in connecting their class work to lively activities. Our students are not getting a degree they are being re-introduced to math, English or business methods as a form of motivation for them to possibly return to college. Community classrooms are usually a pre-cursor to attempting a degree. A teacher can fill the classroom with welcoming phrases such as “I know that we are all busy and probably tired but thanks for coming today. This class is for all of us to progress together. We are all going to make our dreams come true one class at a time. I try to use these phrases as banners or headliners in my classrooms. Always remember to invite your students to come back the next day, week or month to continue working on their dream. If a student must miss a class, remind them that they are always welcome back. Remind them that there are no penalties for lack of attendance. Their attendance is their success. Tone of your voice, physical gestures and facial expressions must be serene and welcoming. Please check out this short article on body language by Gary Genard http://www.publicspeakinginternational.com/blog/bid/141257/body-language-secrets-what-self-image-are-youbroadcasting?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_content=3b8499cc-a9cf-466e-9561-0f7159468f9e. The community classroom flourishes when our students are kept motivated.
Activated Learning: Not staying awake, staying alive!
The community classroom flourishes when there are activities used for learning. Students may have spent 10 hours on a construction or waitress job, they need to stay alive in the classroom. A lecture is a weak cup of coffee. If your students are in an ESL class or beginner GED, turn the lecture into a popular game. A perfect ice breaker activity to introduce a new lesson could be “Jeopardy!” You can be as creative as needed to entice your students to participate. Adult volunteer students keep coming back to class when they are learning and being entertained. Adults need androgogical activities to connect. They are not in your classroom for a grade but to begin a self-imposed journey into a progressive life. Please check out this great PowerPoint from IndeedCE.com. It is a great resource for active learning, http://www.ineedce.com/userfiles/4/pdf/CEStrategiesPpt.pdf.
Non-profits: Big on hope, short on supplies
Unlike, the university and college classrooms, we struggle for supplies in the community. Our students usually do not have any materials beyond what we provide. As non-profits continue to struggle we must lead by our own creativity. Our creativity must be powered by our ability to find adult oriented materials. This is the hard part. When we have beginners or returning English students our worksheets must not be child oriented. No puppies, dragons, flowers, etc. as art. Jack and Jill will not entice an adult to participate in reading comprehension. The internet is where I have found some adult materials. Please check http://www.eslcafe.com as a starter for ESL and English lessons. Math can be tricky but http://www.skillsworkshop.org has a plethora of math practice. A general engine search for adult themed math worksheets also works. The nifty thrifty is a great place to find materials as well. There’s no doubt that GED books, ACT/SAT testing books, textbooks and reading materials abound. I usually use these for work sheet samples and lesson additives. A lesson is created from scratch but your time is greatly appreciated. If we all had a penny for our kind actions there would be millions of millionaires.
Once again, we are the makers and breakers of a volunteer classroom. We and our students may struggle with everyday obstacles but we must overcome them together. Please remember and remind others that the community is a college unto itself. The college of making it. Making it out or making it in to our dreams. I and millions of others appreciate your work every day. Feel free to contact me with any suggestions for making my community classrooms a better place.
Mac-Z Zurawski is an active community instructor in adult education throughout Chicago. She instructs an adult ESL Current Events class at Aquinas Literacy Center (aquinasliteracycenter.org) and tutors Adult GED and US Citizenship Coaching through Chicago Cares, Inc (chicagocares.org). She blends andragogy and technology to create active learning environments. She was inspired to support others by watching her young son struggle with a severe speech impairment that has led into delayed learning process. “If he feels frustrated, an adult must be even more stressed by lack of support”, she says. She is a board member for the Midwest Sociological Society’s Committee on Women in the Profession. Her goal at the MSS is to create workshops on networking in academia and support for new comers to the field. As a member of the Working Women’s History Project (wwhpchicago.org) she supports educational awareness of women’s history. Ms. Zurawski believes education is a positive and lifelong action to help adults “bridge the gap between dreams and reality”. Her education is based on Political Science, Social Justice Studies, Women and Gender Studies, Sociology and Criminal Justice. She is actively pursuing employment in these fields in higher education. You can find her on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/pub/mac-z-zurawski/2b/225/5a3 for more information or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.