The pace of learning



It's fun to have fun,
But you have to know how.
- The Cat in the Hat


I got my lay-off notice mid-June with the end of my daytime GED-prep class (the funding contract runs about 36 weeks). But then I picked up a twice-weekly evening class of lower-level adult literacy learners. Their facilitator was unable to work through the summer, and I was offered the chance to bring them into my classroom.

I fretted for a couple of weeks about my room set up. Were there too many workbooks in evidence? Did it look too school like? Was it warm and inviting, or harsh and crowded with textbooks my learners couldn't read. I moved some furniture around, put away one pc, and dug out all my PRACE Pageturners and the Grass Roots Press easy readers. I slotted the GED workbooks in dark, unlikely corners, and headed down to the library for Joan S. Gottlieb's "Wonders of Science" titles. I printed off fresh copies of Amazing Stories and Easy Stories: People from the Best of the Reader site. Then I straightened my pictures, topped up the instant coffee and tea, and brushed myself off.

As it turned out, my troubles lay elsewhere.

I was coming out of a GED class full of learners ready or nearly ready to challenge the tests - many of whom I'd been with for several months. We'd been working well together, building up common reference points, strategies, jargon. We'd also, apparently, been talking really fast.

At least, I was talking really fast. My whole metabolism seemed to be running hot. I wrote quickly, decisively on the white board. Snatched books from the bookcase mid-stride. Skated fluidly from political geography across the reduction of fractions to essay topic sentences. I may even have been holding a man on a boat and a fish on a rake, while balancing books and a cup and a cake....

In any case, my learners sat open mouthed like pedestrians watching a car crash.

Some where around the second hour I finally noticed. "I went through that kind of fast, didn't I?" I asked after speed-writing a bit of long division. "Kindda," said one, and two others nodded their heads.

"Have I been talking too fast all night?" I asked with a sinking feeling.

"Yes."

"Oh. Well, from now on I'll try to talk slower. And please tell me to slow down whenever you want."

And I tried to slow down, really. But even after five classes, I fear I've been less successful than I'd hoped.

Apparently, I'm going to have to engage in pre-class yoga or breathing exercises or something. At least until I start talking, and reading, and writing things down like a normal human being.



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