Things Adult Students Wish Teachers Knew

I first have to acknowledge this post was inspired from a post I read this morning at

My post will follow this lead.

I have taught at an adult learning facility for 15 years now and these are “some” of the lessons I have learned about the things that adult students wish teachers knew:

1.  I was not late this morning because I am lazy.  I was late because I had to drop off my kids at day-care and the bus drove right by us.  I have three children who need to be dropped at three different locations and it takes me a long time to get them up, dressed, and fed in the morning.  The bus driver was rude to me because it takes me a long time to get all three of them on the bus and the stroller seems to get in the way of the other passengers.  People are rude on the bus too.  They get frustrated when my daughter cries.  They look at me like I am a bad mom because I can’t “get my kids under control”.  The snow didn’t help this morning as I didn’t have boots for my oldest and so he had to go to school in his runners.  I was so glad this morning when you didn’t make a big scene when I arrived late as I was already over-whelmed and my day was just beginning.  Honestly, I am doing the very bed that I can.  I wish someone could help me manage my life better.

2.   I am not texting because I am not interested in your class.  I am texting my landlord about the mold growing in my apartment.  My sink has been leaking for such a long time and I’ve asked him to fix this too, but he just doesn’t respond.  Now, there is mold growing in the kitchen.  This can’t be good for my baby and I.  I really need to take care of this situation.  I’ve already complained to my case-worker about my living arrangements, but I have no money to change locations and I need to have first and last months rent to get any other place.  I didn’t get last month’s support check and I have no money to pay even this month’s rent.  If I don’t pay, I will be evicted – if I complain about the apartment, I may piss off my landlord too – but seriously, how can I live in a place that is so unhealthy?  I wish someone could help me manage my finances.

3.  I am not sleeping because you are boring.  I am sleeping because I didn’t sleep all night.  I have insomnia.  I don’t know why.  I know my life is stressful and that it is in a bit of a mess right now, but I don’t know what to do about it.  I love your classes.  Really.  I just can’t help myself.  Truthfully, I get upset with myself that I fall asleep, but I just get overwhelmed.  Thank-you for not making a spectacle of me.  I appreciate that you let me sleep and keep me safe.  I wish I knew what was wrong with me.

4.  I am not asking questions because I understand everything you are saying.  I am not asking questions because I fear others thinking I am stupid – especially you.  I am used to the teacher being frustrated with me because I didn’t understand.  I need things to be repeated many times before I get it and I think I am the only one that feels that way.  I would rather not draw attention to myself because I lack confidence.  I feel stupid when I ask questions.  I will try to ask questions, but please don’t make me feel stupid.  I wish I could feel better about myself.  I have no one at home who can help me.  I am the first person in my family to finish high school.

5.  I am not high because I want to escape school.  I am high because it helps me calm down so I can attend school.  I am so anxious and distracted if I don’t have a joint before class.  It helps me to focus.  School terrifies me as I have always felt like a failure.  If I don’t smoke up first, I can’t walk into the classroom.  I wish I could talk to someone about how I feel.

6.  I am having a hard time focusing because I haven’t eaten for awhile.  I can only get so much food at the Food Bank and it is still so humiliating to go there.  You have to prove that you are poor – I don’t like doing that.  I would rather go hungry.  The fruit that you bring into class every day is the only fruit that I eat since it is expensive.  I buy things that I can afford but they are unhealthy.  I know that these things are not good for me – but I don’t have a choice.  I really look forward to that food you bring in every day.  I wish cooking classes were offered here.

7.  Smoking is a mini-vacation for me. I get over-whelmed with life.  I can only learn so much at one sitting and then it goes in one ear and out the other.  I have so much stress.  It is nice to just escape for a moment and chill with my friends.  It is the only time I am actually allowed to be with my friends.  My boyfriend doesn’t like me socializing with other people and when I’m home I need to take care of my son.  The only time I get to just chill is during my breaks at school.  I know I need to quit.  I know it is not good for me.  I wish I could talk to my boyfriend to not be so controlling.

8.  I did not want to miss school yesterday – or the day before.  My brother was sick and my Mom had to work.  There is no one else around to take care of him, so I had to stay home.  I knew I would miss a lot – but what choice did I have?  I told my Mom I couldn’t miss school, but she would be fired if she missed work again.  My brother is sick often.  I wish someone would help us to get some support.

9.  I am not lazy.  I was up late last night.  My neighbours were fighting and their children were screaming.  They fight often and many times I have had to call the police.  The last time I did that, my neighbours were furious with me as their children were taken away.  Now, whenever I walk out my door, my neighbours threaten me.  They are nuts.  It is difficult to live where I am and I need a new place, but everywhere else is so expensive.  I wish I could have at least one good night’s sleep.

10.  School is not my only priority.  I live on my own and have been on my own since I was 14.  I have to work in order to pay bills.  Sometimes I am scheduled to work on school days or half way during class.  If I don’t go to work, I will be let get and then I will be homeless … again.  I am doing the very best I can to juggle the stress of full time work and full time school.  I need school so I don’t need to be in this crappy job – but I need the job so that I can live.  I have a child with a learning disability (ADD) and another with oppositional defiance disorder who was suspended from school yesterday.  My kid’s school called me yesterday and told me to pick him up from school.  I told them I had class, but they didn’t care.  This is the fourth time he has been suspended and I don’t know what to do with him.  My mom is sick with cancer and I need to drive her to the doctors for her appointments since she has no one else.  I have surgery myself next week but don’t know how I’m going to take that time off work and time from my Mom and my kids.  I really hope you understand – I need school – I need your help to find a way to balance my life.

About inmycorner

This blog began as an opportunity to tell my Dad's stories. I sat with him and the computer and together we told stories. It was a wonderful way to get to know Dad. He was 9. He and Mom had a wonderful life together and since she passed away a year and a half before him - Dad was ready to join her. I no longer tell his stories but have found stories of my own. The impetus to resume this blog was the discovery that I had stage 4 ovarian cancer. Since blogging had been so therapeutic for my dad and I to get through our grief, I felt maybe this would be a good outlet to process my situation. I also hoped it may serve as an outreach to anyone else who is facing this very ominous journey. So far, so good.
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19 Responses to Things Adult Students Wish Teachers Knew

  1. Gwen K says:

    Wow. Not only have you been teaching: you’ve been learning a lot. Sometimes we as teachers forget to consider the person we are trying to teach and all the things that can overwhelm them. Well written again, my friend.

    • inmycorner says:

      Thank-you, Gwen. And yes, I think the day I stop learning is the day I should quit. I read once that the most important quality a person can have is “interest”. I take great interest in my students, in current events, and in the whole learning process. Gwen – I know you do too! It is people before curriculum. It has to be.

  2. Janine says:

    So true…. You are missed. XOXO

  3. Sara says:

    I love this…this message is powerful. It is just proof as to why you are such an amazing teacher and an amazing woman. You understand, you listen, you care. You have always been my inspiration. When I was your student at the learning centre, your understanding and support helped me get through it among all my other responsibilities and stressors. I am in a much better place, and you helped me get here.

    • inmycorner says:

      Oh, Sara – thank-you. I do care… how could I not? I so much enjoyed watching you “emerge” into a confident young professional. Thank-you for your very kind words. You help me to affirm that this is the right path to take – to remember there is always a background story! You have done so very well in your life – I am proud of you!!!

  4. A lot of people would benefit from reading this.

  5. Gallivanta says:

    It’s tough. For everyone. How much better it would be if we could start everyone off with good housing and good food and a basic income.

  6. inmycorner says:

    Reblogged this on In The Corner and commented:

    This morning I woke up, delighted, that I don’t have to take chemo at this point. How wonderful it is to be “free” “liberated”. I wondered what my thoughts were this time last year and so looked into the archives. I am surprised that my mind was still focused on teaching! This post, I think, bears repeating.

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