When it comes to the teaching profession, I’ve heard it all. “What’s wrong with you?” “Why would you ever want to teach high school? Especially 9th graders! Ewwww!” Or “Why be a teacher for that matter!”
I used to say, “I’d rather interact with kids….kids act like kids because they are kids. When adults act like kids, that’s where I have a problem.” Now I realize that kids, especially teenagers, are mini adults and some of their needs and behaviors are certainly similar.
Fast forward to the present. I’ve been exclusively teaching adults how to effectively integrate technology for 3 years. It’s really no different than teaching 9th graders history, which I did for roughly 8 years.
The difference is when I teach a room full of adults (usually technology integration and blended learning), they go back to their classrooms and teach a room full of kids. By teaching adults, I reach more kids than I EVER could as a teacher (that’s what I tell myself anyway on the days I miss teaching). So…here they are!
1. Relationships matter: connect to your audience. You must start here. Tell a good story and respect them enough to preassess their prior knowledge and go from there.
2. Differentiate for all learners: it’s not just for kids! Adults also have a variety of learning styles. You should keep this in mind when planning for teacher learners too.
3. Make it relevant: otherwise, you run the risk of your students saying, “who cares?!” That’s the phrase you never want uttered. Ever. Life is too short to assign or complete a worksheet.
4. Give your audience a purpose, a challenge, or goal to work towards. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing them before you even get started. See #3.
5. Teach a skill that transcends content knowledge. It doesn’t really matter the skill you teach but it should be applicable in a variety of settings. Think of the phrase “killing two birds with one stone” or the catch phrase “you get more bang for your buck;” It doesn’t matter whether it involves technology or not, as long as it’s a transferrable skill.
6. Base your instruction on a specific need. Don’t guess; use any data you can get your hands on and whatever you do, DO NOT waste anyone’s time. Time is a precious, precious commodity that must be protected from stupidity whenever possible. Plus, it’s plain rude to provide irrelevant instruction. See # 3, again.
7. Foster an environment that accepts and embraces failure as a learning tool. Amazing things can happen when a growth mindset is adopted. For adults, change is scary but if failure is embraced as a learning tool, it can be a powerful lesson. Plus, everyone is more willing to take risks if they know they are supported.
8. Talk and let the participants talk to each other about their learning but don’t talk over them. Oddly enough, you have classroom management skills for both audiences. Don’t ever talk over them. Stop. Redirect. Listen to the learners.
9. Leave your ego at the door. As a teacher (of adults or kids), it’s not about you. It’s about learning and growth of the group in the classroom. Oftentimes if a student is not open to the ideas being presented, it has to do with personal issues and/or lack of prior knowledge.
10. Reflect and repeat. How could you reach and teach your audience better in the future? As learning leaders, we must make learning a continuous process.
Bottom line: know and respect your audience, build relationships, be humble, and always be a learning leader.