Why I Work With Adults
I worked in public education for 27 years until retiring in 2006. At that time, I had no intentions of getting into education again. A close friend and former principal told me about adult education. When she first asked me about teaching part time, my response was a very emphatic NO WAY! Then she told me it was working with adults teaching ESL. Since I had trusted her in the past to guide me in making career decisions, I decided to trust her again and agreed to try it.
It was the best decision I made since retiring. I took over an ESL class in January meeting at Gardens Elementary in Pasadena. There were about 18 ladies who were enrolled in the class. They were so eager to learn that I found myself looking forward to going to work. We met three days a week for five hours each day.
At first I wasn’t sure if I would be able to keep the ladies interested. I had been told to teach all subjects since I had the higher intermediate group. So, I began preparing lessons in math, science, and history as well as reading and grammar.
The ladies made me feel more like a teacher than most of my 27 years in the public education system. They worked very hard and were all quite willing to attempt everything I assigned. Part of their assignments included doing book reports and research projects every month. They were very nervous and scared at first, but did a great job.
There was one project I assigned that I was not sure would turn out well. The ladies had to work in groups to do research on a body system and present it to the class together. They were AWESOME! They did even better than I had ever imagined. They really seemed to enjoy working together as a group.
I feel much appreciated by these ladies. When they call me “teacher,” I can tell that they mean it with much respect. One day I will never forget was during teacher appreciation week. I arrived at work early Thursday morning as normal. There on my table were a dozen red roses. They had written on the board a message of love and appreciation. I was so touched by it that I had tears in my eyes as I thanked them. It was hard to get back to business that morning.
Another unforgettable moment was when one of the ladies called me at home one evening. Her seventh grade son was having problems understanding a math problem. Laura called me and asked if I would explain the problem to her son. I was so honored that she felt comfortable enough with me that she could call me for help.
The love and appreciation I feel from these ladies never seems to stop impressing me. My husband had surgery in March, just over two months since I had taken over the class as their teacher. The ladies brought not only a card but some flowers for me to take home to my husband. I just can’t express the feelings this kindness brought to me.
I have seen such growth in all my ladies. One project they had was to learn all the states and capitals. All but one was able to pass the test I gave them. They have also studied the Constitution, Revolutionary War and the Civil War. In science we have covered the solar system, body systems, DNA, and are now working on mammals. I really like it when the ladies ask me to cover a certain idea in a subject. For example, the body systems study was their idea.
They are just so eager to learn and tell me over and over again how they have been able to help their children with homework. A couple of times one of the ladies brought in a math problem that their child was having difficulty with. We used it to teach our math lesson for the day.
I am very happy that my friend and mentor got me involved with adult education. I had no idea teaching adults could be so fulfilling. Since I started teaching this class, I have been telling every teacher I know about the rewards of being involved with adult education.
About the Author
Rebecca Hastings was born in Texas but has traveled extensively both inside and outside the United States. She has been in education for 27 years as both a teacher and an administrator. She is retired and lives in Pasadena with her husband. She is currently teaching ESL in Adult Education through Harris County Department of Education.