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Teacher Stories: Making Connections and Sharing Successes

SO – since ‘launching’ EFFTIPS to the world earlier this week, we’ve gotten a dozen new subscribers (and a LOT of page views)!
Welcome, welcome to all!

One of the the purposes for this blog is to “…make connections among adult education practitioners implementing standards-based instruction and/or quality instructional principles. Well, this launch is certainly helping us connect!

Among our new subscribers is Kate Nonesuch, from Victoria, Canada. Kate has recently started a blog, Working in Adult Literacy, where she states:

I’ve been working in adult literacy and numeracy for more than twenty-five goal is to share everything I know about teaching before I retire.”

In reading her recent posts, we were struck by one, Not a Fairy Tale. In it she describes an incredibly patient process of waiting for a student to become comfortable enough in the adult education setting to finally overcome her fears and participate. After 3 months, the student began to both write and seek written dialogue on her writing with peers. While Kate states that there was no ‘fairy tale ending’ (because the student then moved away), Kate’s program may have, in truth, opened HUGE doors for this student, simply by patiently and politely persisting.

This story, in turn, connected with one from our recent pilot of the EFF online mini-course Line ‘Em up: Linear Functions – Graphs and Equations for ALL Learners. In a recent discussion post inside the online course, Donna Parrish, who teaches at Rogue Community College in Oregon, told this story:

In teaching an algebra focused class this summer, I have been using EMPower (Seeking Patterns, Identifying Rules, Thinking Algebraically). It has been a good learning experience for both the students and the teacher. There was one student who struggled with the ‘complete the table, describe the pattern in words, write an equation activity’ – I was afraid she would drop the class. She hung in there and when we did the ‘people seated at the banquet table’ activity* she worked and worked but never got the relationship or the equation written (only one out of the 15 students did). We spent several minutes talking about how students approached the problem and talked about just playing with the numbers, i.e., taking a stab at a statement or equation and testing it out.

The discussion was rich with comments like, “It probably doesn’t involve exponents because the number of people seated doesn’t grow fast enough.” We graphed the data and noticed that for every table, two people were added…so we could “forget” the specific points and go up 2, over 1 (slope intro!). Somewhere in the middle of all the thinking and talking, the girl who had struggled raised her hand and asked me to come to her. She had the correct equation – it was all fitting together for her! We celebrated and I danced. At the end of class she said that figuring that equation out had made her day, in fact, it was probably the best day she had ever had in school. Talk about having days made…wow!

One of the things that stood out to us in both these stories was patience. Adult educators need lots of patience – to allow their learners to ‘feel safe,’ to help them overcome years of anxiety and mental blocks, and, well, for many other reasons. For many of our learners there aren’t ‘quick fixes’ — connections come slowly. The other thing that stood out was the power of success. Making that leap — connecting with others and/or a concept — can be an AMAZING event in adult learners’ lives.

What about you? Do you have a success story where patience was key? Where ‘finally getting it’ was immensely powerful for an adult learner? If so, please share!

Post a comment and help us make connections and build this network of outstanding educators!

For more information about EFF online mini-courses, contact us via

*This activity lays the groundwork for thinking about functions and linear equations by asking students to discuss how many people can sit at different arrangements of banquet tables. They are asked to seek a pattern as 2, 3, 4 etc. square tables are pushed together to form a row. Students are first asked to talk it through, then to build an in-out table, and then finally an equation or rule that can be used to find how many people a given number of tables can seat.

Post Contributors:

Duren Thompson, EFFTIPS Technical Editor, Center for Literacy Studies

Donna Parrish, ABS/GED Instructor, Rogue Community College in Grants Pass, OR