Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Glad Tidings We Bring for Adult Education

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Glad Tidings We Bring for Adult Education

Article excerpt

Christmas can be a difficult time of year for learners, so follow these tips to ensure seasonal cheer - and a good work ethic

Don't children just love the run-up to Christmas? Nativity plays for the little ones; carols and concerts for all ages; and, best of all, games and chocolates on the last day of term. The atmosphere is more relaxed than usual and everyone - teachers and pupils alike - looks forward to the fortnight off.

It is different for the adults I teach. They don't want to waste the precious spare time they've put aside for learning to play games as a bit of festive fun. Although I sometimes bring in chocolates, some people have diabetes or allergies or are abstaining before the festive splurge. It's not that adults are immune from distraction at Christmas, it's just that their values are not the same as children's.

Adult education providers break up earlier than schools and go back later, so Christmas can mean almost a month away from the classroom. Sounds great, doesn't it? That is, until you realise that most courses are relatively short and in those four weeks a lot of what has been learned can be forgotten.

I may pack them off with homework and suggest they study and revise, but I know most won't get a minute to do so. Not only do many work full-time and have just a few days off over the holidays, but they will also be busy buying presents and preparing to cook Christmas dinners or visit family. And, of course, a large number will be attending the Nativity plays and concerts in which their own children are appearing.

So at this time of year, studying can move down students' list of priorities and festive-related stress can affect behaviour. Below are some of the issues I've come across and my tips for handling them.

Be considerate of their time

Appreciate that adult learners have less time. Would it be reasonable to suggest that someone misses their child's first school play to attend your evening class? Not really, no. So be upfront and explain to students that you realise it is a busy time of year. Ask them to let you know if they are going to be absent so that you can make allowances and give them the work another time.

Make their planning part of the lesson

Big family dinners need preparation and in the past I have discovered students writing shopping lists surreptitiously under the desk. Instead of reprimanding them, turn it into a class task. I teach functional skills English, and writing lists or following recipes embeds literacy and numeracy as well as health literacy and nutrition. Why not stage a Come Dine with Me-style activity, with pairs or small groups devising their own three-course meals to present to the class? …

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