Some tips on how to manage a class for adult-education

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

If you have been hired to teach in an adult-education program, catch the interest of your pupils in the very first session. The adult students have brought an air of expectancy, which your enthusiasm will confirm.

The one thing students want most is to learn something they didn't know before. If you can't answer their questions, you should at least know where to look. Your students should leave every session having learned something they didn't know before about your subject.

Here are some tips on classroom management I have picked up during my years of teaching at a senior-citizen center, a college, and a local adult-education program:

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* Physical setup. Before your first class, visit the assigned room. Is there a blackboard? (Bring your own box of chalk.) Will you be teaching from a desk, a lectern, or a table? Will your students have lap desks, standard desks, or a common table? Can you open the windows? Where are the restrooms and the nearest pay phone? Are there food- and beverage-dispensing machines nearby?

* Handouts. If your school, college, or organization will copy material for you at no charge, use this service. Be sure to indicate the number of copies you wish, the date needed, (I try to work a week ahead of myself to prevent any last-minute slip-ups), the name of the class, and a telephone number where you can be reached.

* Organizing your materials. Go overprepared rather than underprepared. I teach from a detailed outline, gathering supportive materials as I write the outline. Folders and a loose-leaf notebook are efficient organizing tools. You will need a briefcase or carrying bag of a type adaptable to the materials you have to transport each session. (Storage space for evening-school teachers is usually nonexistent.)

* Supplies. Have a list of required supplies and where they can be purchased ready for your students at the first session. Supplies needed for right away can be included in the course description.

* Arrival time. I always arrive half an hour early so that I can get my materials out, write instructions on the blackboard, and be sure the room is properly set up. I begin my class promptly, but do not take attendance, make announcements, or move into the meat of the session until 15 minutes later, allowing for the arrival of latecomers.

* Name tags. These are especially helpful for the first session. I collect them at the end of each class and redistribute them each time. (I write students' names in magic marker on squares of paper and provide common pins for fastening these to their clothing.) And remember to identify yourself as teacher in like manner!

* Break. With a two-hour session, I bring in a kitchen timer, which I set for 10 minutes, resuming instruction promptly after it rings.

* Homework. If there is an assignment, I write it on the blackboard during the break, reviewing it when the class returns.

* Conclusion of session. End promtply! I mention one area of instruction I am going to take up at the next class, reiterate the homework assignment, and collect the name tags.

Keep careful attendance records. Whether or not it is required, it gives you an accurate accounting of who was at each session and enables you to see that the absentees receive any handouts you may have distributed.

Students often express a desire for an advanced class. But except for typing , shorthand, or bookkeeping, registration usually falls below the number required.

Since the adult-education teacher has tremendous flexibility in designing courses, however, the format of the course often can be altered to accommodate those wishing to advance beyond a beginning point, while still meeting the needs of the first-time student. Usually the classes are small enough to allow for individual attention.

Adults are apt pupils, eager to learn and responsive to instruction. They present no discipline problems. They ask only that you teach them the subject they want to learn. Properly prepared, you can go into the classroom confident in your ability to impart to your students a subject that has brought you pleasure and joy over the years.

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