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Locating Adult Literacy Programs In Regular Schools and Adult Education Centers: What the Learners Have to Say (page 4)
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Given the voluntary nature of attendance in adult literacy programs, and in consideration of the negative school memories that many adults bring to the learning environment, literacy program administrators and practitioners would be wise to think twice - and then think twice again in consultation with their student bodies - before accepting offers of classroom space in regular schools or adult education centers that might remind their learners of formal educational institutions. Literacy program facility problems should be solved not by moving the programs into other educational institutions, but by increasing the levels of funding to the point where these programs can afford appropriate classroom space and instructional resources to meet their learners' needs. Do you have ideas for securing long-term funding to cover the costs of renting a stand-alone facility? If so, please contribute them to this funding forum. [underscore = internal link to funding forum]

Unfortunately, this solution is unrealistic for many adult literacy programs. Therefore, the following suggestions offer a compromise to help ease the transition when the only financially viable choice is to accept space in a public school or adult education institution:

  • Make inquiries about the institution's rules of access. Will your learners have to undergo criminal records checks to enter a regular school building? Will they have to adhere to certain dress codes (e.g., no midriff shirts or bandanas)? Will you and your learners have access to the building outside of regular working hours? What accommodations is the school or adult education center willing to make in order to meet your program's needs?

  • Try to secure a classroom near an outside entry door. If the classroom is in a public school, ask to have this access route limited to your students only, so that they will not be in direct contact with the other students on their way in and out of the building.

  • Schedule your hours of operation to begin and end 15-30 minutes before or after the other classes in the building at the start and close of the day. If you have more than one instructor on duty, one of you may wish to take an early shift that starts and ends before the other classes, and the other may wish to take a late shift that starts and ends after the other classes. Staggering the hours will make it easier for your adult learners to arrive and leave at times when the doorways and hallways are not congested with other traffic.

  • Ask to have the speaker system turned off in your classroom, so that your students will not be interrupted by announcements intended for others in the building.

  • Replace individual desks with tables and chairs, so that your adult learners will have more room to work. Arrange the tables and chairs in a configuration that provides opportunities for group work. Try to avoid setting the tables and chairs in neat rows - mix them up to make the room look more interesting.

  • Set up a coffee corner and bring in some soft-sided chairs or sofas to create a conversation area. Your objective is to soften the institutional atmosphere, so that your learners feel like they are being treated to a less formal adult learning environment.

  • Put adult-friendly posters or pictures on the wall, and set some plants near the window. A fish tank helps too, but fish require more care than plants - try sturdy stock such as goldfish or guppies. (A betta fish is very pretty and can live in a small bowl that you can easily transport home for holidays.)

  • Ask your learners what would make them feel more comfortable. Some may have wall decorations or coffee mugs that they wish to contribute.

  • Do you have other suggestions for adult basic education and literacy providers who are setting up quarters in regular schools and adult education centers? If so, please contribute to this alternatives forum. [underscore = internal link to interactive alternatives forum]


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