Friday, April 30, 2010

A Valued Student

In my several positions in adult and college education this year I have benefitted much by the privilege of working with many students whose lives have touched mine in many ways, especially in the realm of the spiritual. In this post I would like to highlight one such student, whose first name is Etheline, with whom I work with on an individualized basis.

Etheline is seeking to enhance her basic literacy skills in reading, writing, and critical analysis and interpretation of texts of many types. She and I work with the 5th level of the Reading and Writing for Today's Voyager series as well as with the Bible, her favorite text and mine.

Based on an assignment from Voyager focusing on the theme of work (whether paid or unpaid) Etheline constructed the following essay and gave me permission to publish here. No doubt you'll each have your own experience in reading the following essay. In addition to the simple elegance of the essay, what stands out for me is Etheline's calling sense of calling in public service which she links directly to her Christian vocation as a servant of God. In both her paid position at a Hartford area based nursing home and in her "unpaid" position at her large member church, where she has substantial managerial and organizational responsinilities, Etheline exhibits the core quality of care, service, follow through, and deep consideration for her fellow human beings whatever station of life they happen to occupy.

My Typical Work Day

I start my shift at work at 3 pm daily. I start by getting my patient assignment. As a certified nursing assistant, I go to each of my residents to see if they are okay and in need of anything. After, I get a report from the nurse on the unit. Then, I get the residents who are to go back to bed in bed and get the other ones up in a chair and get them ready for the dining room for supper. When supper arrives, I set up the residents that can feed themselves and help to feed the ones who need help eating. After supper, I do the shower and sponge baths as needed and get each resident ready for bed. I havde about ten residents on my assignment that I take c are of. I usually get off work at 11 pm.

On the days I am not working 3-11, or sometimes in the morning before work, I have church duties. My primary duty is cooking. I cook for different occasions at the church with the assistance of about 12 other cooks. I am the head cook and I oversee the shopping and the general duties in the kitchen. It is a lot of responsibility because there are at least two functions per week. Sometimes the gathering is between 150-200 people. I do not get paid for doing this but I consider it my work for the Lord.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Day in the Life of a Writing Center Tutor

Yesterday was jammed packed from almost the time I got t the center to leaving four hours later. The first student had some beautifully crafted sentences in her short essay, though had some grammatical problems in some other sentences, particularly with run on sentences and fusing quotes within her text in a way that keeps a coherent sentence intact. I gave her some pointers on using ellipses and brackets as well as discussed the value of shorter sentences when needed. We discussed the value of longer sentences as reflected in some of her own work, but encouraged her to make sure that whether long or short, that each sentence was, in fact, a sentence and then consider sentence length a function of both style and specific intent in the formulation of each paragraph. The session involved both very close editing and stepping back and encouraging reflection on what the student learned and could take away from our session.

The next student was working on an extended essay on Michael Jordan, which included in his title "His Airiness," the reference being to Jordon's promotion of Nike shoes. We worked diligently on a range of issues for close to an hour on both the details of grammar and in clarifying what exactly he wanted to say in the essay, focusing on transitions, word choice, pruning and/or adding text where needed. He had taken the essay up through Jordon's college years and had to deal with his NBA career and his career as a marketer. The student had some intriguing language in his essay as reflected in part in the use of His Airiness in the title. I hope that I get the opportunity to read the completed essay.

The next student was asked to compare and contrast two poems selected from her course outline. Our focus here was (a) a close reading of the assignent to make sure that both she and I clearly grasped the expectations of the assignnment, and (b) to carefully discuss what to consider in selecting specific poems; namely, on whether the student (1) understood the poems, (2) found it interesting or significant, and (3) whether there was a reasonable basis for effectively comparing and contrasting the two poems. Among other things I emphasized the importance of being strategic in thinking through the selection process. The student gave some thought to the latest two poems on the list, perhaps because she had thought that was what the teacher was emphasizing, though I am uncertain as to what precisely she was thinking there. In any event, her understanding and interest in those poems were limited and interest level even less. Therefore, I encouraged her to go in another direction and to write on the poem she wanted to, which was Edgar Allen Poe's haunting Annabel Lee.

She gave some thought to comparing this poem to Langston Hughes' classic poem, Hope Deferred. She also had a sprightly poem by Shakespeare on love in spring, which might easily contrast with Poe's haunting vision of love lost through death and the almost perverse clinging of his vision of Annabel as a desperate act of imagination. The discussion went back and forth for some time. Finally, something clicked when the student realized that both poems (Poe's and Shakespeare's) were about love in which they were saying some sharply contrasting things. She clearly understood both poems as well which made it more likely that she would internalize the assignment rather than simply carry out something "expected" by the professor. She was satisfied with that recognition and had no need to continue our session. She was now ready to begin her essay.

The final student in a developmental course had a short piece to write in the form of a letter on the importance of parental discipline. The student's argument was straight forward and perhaps "simplistic" in its argumentative level which, rightly or wrongly I did not focus at the level of content. Rather, I focused more narrowly on helping him construct a more coherent piece based on the content that he had already written, which required the removal of a paragraph that was irrelevant to his main argument, setting up a topic sentence and arranging the three main points in the opening paragraph in the order that they would follow in the succeeding paragraphs. The teacher was going to let the students now the next day when the assignment was due. I encouraged this student to come back after he had inputted the changes he and I discussed and one of my colleagues or I could work with him again, perhaps this time to press him more on enhancing the nuance of his argument.

That was Monday. We'll see what Wednesday brings!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tutoring in the Writing Center

This was a busy week in our college writing center. I'll describe one student who I met his morning, a young man who was assigned to write a book review about Dr, Ben Carson. The following link provides a nice biographical profile of Dr. Carson. The book he had read is Carson's inspiring autobiography, Gifted Hands Please do read some of the Amazon reviews which provide testimony on how inspiring Carson's story is and the many adversities he overcome.

My student had a good understanding of the narrative, but didn't seem to have any sense of what a book review required. We went over the two book review sheets the teacher provided. We spent most of our time discussing what was involved in writing a three paragraph summary and a five paragraph assessment of the significance of the book. We also touched on key elements in writing an introductory and concluding paragraph.

The student seemed somewhat passive as I began to explain what was involved in each section of the review. I attempted to draw him in with what seemed like minimal success. I walked away from where we were tutoring for a while so he could take notes from the whiteboard as I was unsure how much he was taking in or would remember.

At the end of our session he felt he had a basic understanding of what would be involved in writing a successful review and said he would have to go home and take the time to do the work. I suggested that the review could take between 6-8 hours to write and that he should start, especially in the summary section with simply outlining key points before writing. I encouraged him to come in with a draft early next week so we could review.

It looks like this effort will be continued. I felt i had to provide some heavy scaffolding.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Welcome to The Comprehensive Adult Educator.

All topics related to adult and college teaching, learning, and program management welcome.

My career in adult education began in 1983 when I was hired as a social studies teacher in an adult high school diploma program. I worked for years as a program director for Literacy Volunteers of Greater Hartford where I played a major role in transforming a one-on-one tutoring program into a 30+ small group center in Basic Literacy and ESOL. More recent ventures have included serving as a writing center tutor at the University of Hartford and Capital Community College. I am currently teaching English and math classes in a transition to college program and basic Word application, all of which I find challenging and absorbing.

I have also worked at the Capitol Region Education Council where I created the Adult Literacy Resource Library ( designed especially for adult education teachers, but also of value to students and program and administrative support staff.

This summer I will be preparing for a second round of teaching a on-line graduate course at the Virginia Commonwealth University on adult education curriculum develpment, which is part of a 5 course certificate program in adult literacy jointly sponsored by VCU and the VA Department of Corrections Education.

As stated, I intend this blog as a resource to explore adult education from a comprehensive perspective, to include any topics related to ESOL, ABE, community based literacy programming,town and state based adult education programming, policy, research, transition to college, and (since those attending are both young and young at heart adults), college learning and teaching, particularly broad-based issues such as learning and writing across the disciplines. In addition, we will also probe into the critical relationship between technology (old and new, pedagogy, training, and professional development, as well as that of management theory, organizational development, and innovation theory. Finally, as someone who also has a strong background in Christian adult education, I will also post messages on this topic from time time in which my more extensive commentary will be found on my other Blog, Onward Christian Sojourner (

Stay tuned!