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Adult Literacy Teaching Careers, Jobs, and Employment Information

Career and Job Highlights for Adult Literacy Teachers

  • There are a lot of part time teachers who teach adult literacy and remedial and self-enrichment classes for which they receive no benefits, much like the unpaid volunteers who teach the same courses.
  • A raise in the population of limited English speakers is expected to create many job opportunities for English as second language teachers.
  • As more and more people seek ways to continue lifelong learning, and more people, like retirees, have the free time to do so, the demand for self-enrichment classes is expected to increase.

Adult Literacy Teaching and Education Career Overview

Students take self-enrichment courses for enjoyment or self-improvement, not to work toward a vocation or degree. There are a variety of self-enrichment courses for teachers to offer to all ages, such as painting, cooking, dancing, family budgeting, or computer skills. Teachers of remedial education and adult literacy offer classes to those not in school, including both adults and youth, to continue their basic education. Subjects usually include basic English—reading, writing, and speaking and basic math skills. These courses increase the students’ problem solving skills and could help them hold a job. There are three categories of instruction provided by these teachers: English literacy, where limited English speakers improve their language skills; adult secondary education (ASE), where students take courses to earn some sort of high school equivalency credential, like the General Educational Development (GED), and remedial or adult basic education (ABE), where adults who’s skills fall at or below an eighth grade level in a certain subject, improve those skills. In the past, students in adult literacy and remedial or basic education classes consisted of mainly those who either did not graduate from high school, or if they did graduate, they failed to obtain the skills they needed for their work places or knowledge they wanted to fulfill their personal goals. However, today students enrolled in these classes are those who are leaning English in addition to their native language, such as immigrants or others. Teachers who work with adult students that are learning English for the fist time are usually called teachers of English to speakers of other languages (ESOL) or teachers of English as a second language (ESL).

The teaching ideas and techniques that self-enrichment educators use vary because of the many different subjects and courses they teach. Classes are relaxed and slow paced on the whole. Some focus on hands-on activities where the student learns through doing the activity, like drawing or cooking. In these types of classes teachers may model a desired approach and then monitor the students’ development in replicating that task or skill. In other classes instructors may involve students more passively, in group discussion or reading assignments. This teaching style tends to lend itself to more academically based subjects like history or finance. Subjects like Bible history or family planning are often taught by self-enrichment teachers through a church or other religious institution.

Where classes offered at a college or university typically last over several months, self-enrichment classes are often shorter, lasting anywhere from a few weeks to a single day. A quilting class that specifies in one type of baby quilt, or an introductory class into cooking, is examples of courses that may be very brief. Other subjects lend themselves to longer time frames, like an adult novel writing class, or children’s music lessons. These courses my last several weeks or months and be scheduled during vacations or after school.

Courses in language arts, geography, chemistry, and other areas are taught by remedial or basic education teachers. These educators try to make their classrooms contusive for adult learning. Their students are adults, ages 16 and older, who want to improve their skills one or more subjects like math, science, or reading. Class activities include both working in groups, large and small, and spending one-on-one time with the teacher so all types of learning styles are catered to. Assessing the skill level of each student prior to beginning the instruction of the course is essential, as each student may enter with different proficiency levels. Often the results of these assessments play a factor in creating an education plan individually fitted to each student. In addition to assessments prior to instruction, evaluating the students during the course of the class helps the teacher chart students’ progress and indicates when they are ready to move on to a harder level.

It is not uncommon for students in remedial or adult basic education classes to lack successful study skills or the self-confidence they need to head back to school. Some students reenter the classroom with disabilities, physical or learning. Teachers should be able to recognize the special needs of their students and know how to accommodate their learning to help them achieve their goals. In some situations knowing when to take advantage of services that are provided outside of the classroom is the best way to help a student.

In order for students to qualify for a job, get a GED credential, or continue their education beyond the secondary level, they often must pass a test. It is the responsibility of the GED or adult secondary education teacher to make sure their students learn the knowledge and skills to pass the test. A class geared towards helping students pass the GED test would focus on the subject areas tested: social studies, science, math, and language skills. In addition to specific subject areas, the class would also emphasize life skills such as critical-thinking, problem-solving, communication, and information-processing, to both help students be more successful on the test and in their other educational pursuits.

ESL students are learning to read, write, listen, and speak English. Introductory classes tend to be structured as mock situations of real life, while advanced classes focus on writing or work-related conversation skills in an academic way. Many times ESOL teachers do not share a common language with their students, so they have to use creative ways of communicating. In addition to this challenge, students will learn English at different speeds due to their different ages, cultures, educational backgrounds, or the similarity of their native language to English.

It is critical that self-enrichment, remedial, and adult literacy teachers make lesson plans prior to class, keep up with any paperwork, and know what is going on in their fields. As computers take a more and more prominent role in teaching basic skills and ESOL, teachers must learn what application computers can have in their classes. Teachers rarely grade papers or take attendance because their students are motivated by a desire to learn, not a letter grade for academic credit.

Career Training and Qualifications for Adult Literacty and Self-Enrichment Teachers

Although knowledge in the subject area is the chief requirement for self-enrichment teachers, depending on what type of class it is and where it is being taught, there may be additional qualifications. For example a writing teacher may be required to show a number of their writing samples before getting a job teaching creative writing. Some content areas require special certification to teach, like a Red Cross diving license to teach scuba diving. Some trained professionals or professors teach self-enrichment classes for fun in their free time. There are programs designed to train people to teach some subject areas, like music or athletics. A potential dance teacher may complete courses that help them learn to teach different dance styles such as jazz or hip-hop. Good self-enrichment teachers feel comfortable speaking in front of groups of people, can communicate basic ideas clearly, and have patience with their students, especially if they are instructing children. It is important that they can present the material in a fun and interesting way.

There are different qualifications for teaching basic and secondary education and adult literacy depending on the State and the program. Programs that are run by the state or local government or funded by the federal government tend to have a high level of expectations for student learning. Local programs, on the other hand, that are run by churches or volunteer organizations tend to develop curriculum based on their specific needs and goals. Most adult teachers who work for the public school system must have a bachelor’s or better yet a master’s degree. In some areas a certificate to teach elementary or secondary school is even a requirement. A special certificate in ESOL or adult education is required in a few districts. In all cases, teaching experience is ideal or sometimes necessary. You do not typically need a bachelor’s degree to volunteer; however before you can work with students you must go to a training program.

Adult literacy and basic and secondary education teachers are suggested to attend work shops or other training programs on teaching students with learning disabilities, how to use computers in the classroom, how adult students learn, and teaching students from different cultures. Familiarity with language acquisition theories, linguistics principles and possibly the process of becoming a US citizen will help ESOL teachers in their classrooms. GED teachers need to know what’s on the GED test and how to teach students that material. Literacy volunteers usually receive training on useful teaching techniques, selecting the best material, how to assess students’ needs, make lesson plans, how adult learners differ from children, and issues on cultural understanding.

Adult education and literacy teachers work with students from various cultures, who speak many languages, and come from different schooling and financial backgrounds. It is important that they understand and respect all of their students’ situations and are aware of their needs and worries. Regardless if you are paid or volunteer, every teacher should communicate clearly and encourage their students.

Depending on which State you are in and which program you are teaching for, there are chances for adult educators and literacy teachers to advance. Part-time teachers can move up to full-time positions, or move departments and work as a coordinator or in another administrative position when spots open up. After gaining teaching experience some decide to make policy at the government level: local, State, or Federal, or for a nonprofit organization. Practiced self-enrichment teachers may be in a supervisory role over volunteers or inexperienced instructors. Starting their own programs or schools, or moving into administrative positions are other opportunities for self-enrichment teachers to advance.

Job Outlook and Employment Information

It is expected that job opportunities for self-enrichment, adult literacy, and remedial teachers are expected to increase. As many people leave the field or retire, many job openings are left for upcoming teachers. Employment is projected to increase more than the average for other work through 2012.

The largest proportion of job openings belongs to self-enrichment teachers. As large numbers of people retire and have time to take courses, including the baby boomers and others embracing lifelong learning, the need for self-enrichment teachers is expected to increase. The classes in greatest demand include hands-on subjects and those not taught easily via the internet like music, athletics, and cooking. Classes on self-improvement and spirituality are also anticipated to rise in popularity.

Employers who continue to call for a more literate labor force, impact employees’ need for secondary education classes, basic education, and adult literacy. As the raising number of immigrants and other people living in the US need to learn, or improve their English skills, ESOL teachers are expected to experience considerable employment growth. ESOL teachers will be needed most in states with large populations of residents who have inadequate English skills, such as New York, Texas, Florida, and California. However, many immigrants have begun settling in the Plains States and areas of the Midwest, increasing demands for ESOL teachers in those parts of the country as well.

Fluctuations in the economy often influence the demand for basic and secondary and adult literacy education. Companies have a hard time finding workers when the economy is good, consequently they relax their standards often hiring people with limited English skills or without a degree or GED. Companies can increase their employment standards when the economy is soft, requiring their workers to have additional education. Funding levels, which change the number of teaching jobs from year to year, can also affect adult education classes. There are factors that impact the number of immigrants that enter this country, like immigration policies and the relative prosperity of the United States compared with other countries, which as a result affects the demand for ESOL teachers.