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Teachers - Adult Literacy and Remedial Education  
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Teachers - Adult Literacy and Remedial Education

Nature of the Work: Adult literacy and remedial education teachers instruct adults and out-of-school youths in reading, writing, speaking English, and math skills to equip them to solve problems, improve their job opportunities, and further their education. The instruction provided by these teachers can be divided into three principal categories: adult basic education (ABE), which is geared toward adults whose skills are either at or below an eighth-grade level; adult secondary education (ASE), which is geared towards students who wish to obtain their General Educational Development (GED) certificate or other high school equivalency credential; and English literacy instruction for adults with limited proficiency in English. Many students in these adult education classes traditionally have been those who did not graduate from high school or who passed through school without acquiring the knowledge needed to meet their educational or career goals. Increasingly, students in these classes are immigrants or other people whose native language is not English. Educators who work with adult English-language learners are usually called teachers of English as a second language (ESL) or teachers of English to speakers of other languages (ESOL).

Adult basic education teachers teach basic academic courses in mathematics, languages, history, reading, writing, science, and other areas, using instructional methods geared toward adult learning. They teach these subjects to students 16 years of age and older who demonstrate the need to increase their skills in one or more of these subjects. Classes are taught to appeal to a variety of learning styles and usually include large-group, small-group, and one-on-one instruction. Because the students often are at different proficiency levels for different subjects, students’ skills must be assessed beforehand. This assessment may be performed by the teacher, but is often performed by another member of the program staff. In many programs, the assessment is used to develop an individualized education plan for each student. Teachers are required to formally evaluate students periodically to determine their progress and potential for advancement to the next level. However, they informally evaluate their progress continuously.

Teachers in adult basic education may assist students in acquiring effective study skills and the self-confidence they need to reenter an academic environment. They also may encounter students with learning or physical disabilities that require additional expertise. These workers should possess an understanding of how to help these students achieve their goals, but they also may need to have the knowledge to detect challenges their students may face and provide them with access to a broader system of additional services to address these challenges.

Adult secondary education or GED teachers provide help in acquiring the necessary knowledge and skills to pass the test required to earn a GED. Earning a GED requires passing a series of five tests in reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies; most teachers instruct students in all subject areas. To help students pass the tests and succeed later in life, teachers not only provide subject matter instruction but also focus on improving the communication, information-processing, problem-solving, and critical-thinking skills necessary for further education and successful careers.

ESOL teachers or English Language Learners Teachers help adults to speak, listen, read, and write in English, often in the context of real-life situations to promote learning. Students learn writing and conversational skills or may focus on learning more academic or job-related communication skills depending on their skill level. ESOL teachers work with adults from a wide range of backgrounds. They need to be prepared to work with learners of all ages and from many different language backgrounds. Some students may have extensive educational experiences in their native countries, while others may have very little. As a result, some students may progress faster than others, so teachers must be able to tailor their instruction to the needs and abilities of their students. Because the teacher and students often do not share a common native language, creativity is an important part of fostering communication in the classroom and achieving learning goals. These workers teach students from a variety of cultural backgrounds and, therefore, they must be sensitive to differences in culture and backgrounds.

Teachers at all levels assist their students with finding additional resources in the community. This may include helping them find community resources such as healthcare, job placement agencies or other educational institutions for additional education, like community colleges or other postsecondary institutions.

All adult literacy and remedial teachers must prepare lessons beforehand, do any related paperwork, and stay current in their fields. Attendance for students is mostly voluntary and coursework is rarely graded. Because computers are increasingly being used to supplement instruction in basic skills and in teaching ESOL, many teachers also must learn the latest applications for computers in the classroom.

Work Environment: Because many adult literacy and remedial education teachers work with adult students, they do not encounter some of the behavioral or social problems sometimes found with younger students. Adults attend by choice, are highly motivated, and may bring years of experience to the classroom—attributes that can make teaching these students rewarding and satisfying. However, some students may have had difficult experiences learning particular subjects or material in the past that creates roadblocks to learning that teachers must work to overcome. Also, many adult education programs are located in cramped facilities that lack modern amenities, which can be frustrating for teachers.

A large number of these teachers work part time. Some have several part-time teaching assignments or work full time in addition to their part-time teaching job. Classes for adults are held on days and at times that best accommodate students who may have job or family responsibilities, so evening and weekend work is common.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
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