What do you teach?

Over at fabulous infed I stumbled over a text that was first given as an address to the Commission of Professors of Adult Education AAACE at a conference in Milwaukee in November 2006 and has been re-produced as an infed-piece on adult education.

Part of the «talking-point» article previously known as the address is a dialogue which I have encountered too many times in too many situations; I could immediately sympathise…

Here it is, slightly adjusted for our context:

People constantly ask me: «But what do you teach?»

I would reply that I did not actually teach but that I organised educational activities for people.

«What kind of activities?» they would ask.

Frustrated indeed

«Things like a series of meetings, seminars and training courses on European Citizenship or Human Rights,» I would reply.

«Oh, you teach philosophy,» they would say.

A lot of my work has to do with capacity building in the world of NGOs: Programmes on recruiting and managing volunteers, organising workplaces, running meetings, speaking effectively, campaigning, funding and managing projects. I remember persons looking in horror at me and saying: «You don’t actually teach them to do that, do you?»

And when I started to train trainers and educators and people asked me what I did, I would reply: «I am training trainers and educators.»

«Oh,» they would say, «and what do you teach?»

«I train on youth and adult education.»

«No, I meant, what is your subject?»

Frustrating all the more

«Well, I educate educators.»

«Yes, but you must have a subject like history, or maths, or science, or English literature?»

«I teach people about the processes of learning and organising learning.»

«Yes, of course you do,» they would say, «but what do you teach?»

Head over to infed to read the whole article which, admittedly, goes much beyond this dialogue to look at adult education and the role of adult educators.

It is an interesting read!


One response to “What do you teach?”

  1. Athanasios (Sakis) Krezios Avatar

    That was a great suggestion! Wowwwwww! It’s like for my self being in a pathway of desire and the article came to give me the torch so that I don’t fall out of it or take the wrong turn. It’s like bringing an object within my desire (our desires?)”we all love what we do and we are attracted by it but most of the times we can’t make it clear even for ourselves what is this thing we do” once said…We act in a way (ideally) that motivates others to release themselves from the chains of inactivity, taking their own charge for their future, being emancipated…and it is a noble purpose.
    I dare to say that in my life course, after long held inner self exploration, I have been looking for an external “jury” to justify my acts as being the “right” ones (on the right direction, at least); a “jury” that can also play the role of a “mentor” (like the good old friend of Ulysses) and help me reinforce my passion that has led to that acts…Newman is sitting in the middle, at least for the moment.
    Infed, The Bibliotheca Alexandrina for those that “their dads believe are teaching literature”, is an (e)lit e-ra(p)ture! Thanking them immensely.