When I tell people I’m a math teacher, they always ask “What Grade?” and to that I reply “I teach adults.” Which is something they’re not prepared to hear. I’m not talking about adults in college either, I teach for a local adult education program in New England. These are people trying to get a high school diploma or a GED, or people who want to go to college but aren’t ready yet. Many of our students are trying to get a job, or a better job, or change careers altogether. Our student population is 1000. 60% of our students are immigrants and refugees. I’ve taught 17 year old drop-outs, and 60+ year old grandmothers. They are all motivated students, so I don’t have the usual behavioral and attitude issues I hear about from k-12 teachers.
One misconception people often have about adult education is that we teach only at night. Our classes run from 9 in the morning until 9 at night, so I teach a combination of days and nights. Usually adult education programs are run through the local community college, but ours is part of the public school system. So while I am an employee of the public school system, I am definitely not treated the same. We do get the same salary scale (finally, thanks to years of hard work and insistence by my more senior adult ed. colleagues) but we do not get the same resources. I have no school laptop, no smartboard, no computers in every room. Heck, we just got our first digital projectors installed in 2 of our classrooms (we have 10 academic classrooms altogether).
And remember those lack of resources? Imagine the types of people who come to adult education…those who dropped out, sometimes because of a learning disability that may or may not have been diagnosed, or students who graduated but didn’t understand what they were learning and now they want to go to college, or an immigrant who never learned math in their own language let alone in a new one. We have no special education, no IEP’s, no ed techs. We learn as we go how to help all types of learners, and thankfully we have wonderful volunteers who contribute time to our classrooms. In fact that’s how I got involved with adult education in the first place, I started as a volunteer math tutor 11 years ago. They asked me to start teaching and I never looked back.
The math I teach (basics to algebra) ends up being equivalent to 3rd through 8th grades. We use a lot of manipulatives, hands on labs, writing prompts and group activities to help our students learn. I am eager to share my perspective on teaching math and learn from others as well.