Pillar 2 Enthusiasm

Pillar 2 Enthusiasm

2. Enthusiasm

Wlodkowski tells us: “Enthusiastic instructors are people who care about and value their subject matter. They teach it in a manner that expresses those feelings with intent to encourage similar feelings in the learner.” He adds: “If we care about our instructional topic, we will be naturally inclined to be expressive about it” (p. 43).

One of our goals should be “to have rapport with our students and express our feelings in a way that engages our learners to share in our enthusiasm” (p. 43). Wlodkowski points out what can happen when there is little-to-no teacher enthusiasm: “If we appear bored, listless, and uninvolved with what we are asking the adult to learn, their response will be: ‘If that’s what knowing this does for you, by all means, keep it away from me‘” (p. 44). His final point is especially worth thinking about: “For learners, how instructors say it will always take priority over what instructors say” (p. 44).

On a personal note: I have given many workshops on teaching adults through the years and often begin by asking the participants to think of who their favourite teacher was, then ask them to tell us why that was their favourite. Invariably, I find enthusiasm and expertise top the list. Not always in that order, but they are vital to teaching success.

But when I have asked adults who are early school leavers to talk about their favourite teacher, it always includes a statement like: “That was the one teacher who really cared about me.” Then they often talk of their regret about “letting that teacher down.” They often feel guilty.

And, when I ask about their worst teachers back in school, everything changes. Most could not remember a single teacher’s name. Sometimes the sheer anger has been startling. I have heard a lot about teacher racism, how a teacher humiliated the learner and how they were classroom shunned by others as a result (Quigley, 2006, Chapter 2).

This is a different environment from what Wlodkowski is talking about with his focus on adult learners in college and university settings. Part of the challenge of adult literacy is to make it clear to interested “recruits” and new learners that they are “not returning to school.” However, my research shows most hear “school” when invited to come to adult literacy classes (Quigley, 1997; 2006). This is a challenge in our field.