Reclaiming Lives

  1. It is difficult for educators to remain optimistic and sufficiently energized to do their work effectively. While the notion that the learning process is fundamentally learner centred may be one of the cornerstones of adult education theory and practice, the process is, in fact, very teacher dependent (Hart and Holton). The expectations of teachers to be accommodating and motivating can be extremely demanding and debilitating especially when little, if any, recognition is made of the need for rejuvenation. Hart and Holton suggest that "rejuvenation is assured if one mindfully attends to the activities associated with developing self-love, activities [which] require blocks of quality time often devoted to thinking about students and their learning" (253- 254). However, adult educators are rarely afforded the luxury of thinking about learners and their learning. In very practical terms, accommodating the adult educator's need for spiritual reflection would be viewed by the majority of administrators and co-workers as irrelevant to the job.

  2. Those who work within bureaucratic or organizational structures have little ability to respond to the emotional needs of adult educators working on the front lines. Exceptions are possible if the situation is deemed an occupational health and safety issue, a legitimate health issue under an employee assistance plan (if one exists) or regular sick benefits plan, or if the manager or supervisor uses their personal prerogative to legitimize the emotional needs of their staff members. As well, those employed in similar positions on the front lines have little opportunity to come together for support or feedback about the difficulties and challenges of their work and to counter the isolation they otherwise experience. In my time at the Sexual Harassment Prevention Program, I have discovered that there is no language to adequately describe my experiences of backlash. Communicating feelings of frustration and exhaustion to my co-workers has often been met with a combination of concern for my personal well-being and a sense of confusion about how to address the situation.

  3. The adult educator and the educational function they fulfill within an organization often operate in isolation from other key aspects of the issue being addressed. The adult educator is not often involved in the conceptualization of strategic plans or in other key aspects of the issue, which can limit her effectiveness in the field. Although I enter a workshop primarily as an educator, I am often viewed as fulfilling other roles including counsellor, policy expert, complaint investigator, or personal confidant. While I attempt to deal with participants' needs as effectively as possible, my limited ability to respond in a meaningful or informed way undermines my self-confidence.


of teachers
to be
can be
when little,
if any,
is made
of the
need for rejuvenation.

  1. Attempts to create safe and respectful learning environments as a means of avoiding conflict are sometimes not successful. In one particular workshop where a significant amount of hostility and resistance to mandatory education had been expressed, the strategy of my co-worker and I was to have participants openly voice feelings of frustration and skepticism so that their concerns could be put on the agenda and, therefore, addressed more effectively. By early afternoon a spokesperson for approximately ten women informed us that they were leaving the workshop because they did not feel safe or respected. It was a shock to realize that our carefully thought-out educational process, done with the best of intentions and with sound adult education practice in mind, had achieved disastrous results.

    In numerous workshops, the majority of our energy and attention as facilitators is directed at those who are most defensive and resistant to the process. In attempts to create safe learning environments for all participants, we sometimes create an artificial sense of comfort that actually excludes women. Is it any wonder that women are the most hesitant to speak during sessions where male participants are quick to dominate the discussion, equating employment equity to reverse discrimination and referring to sexual harassment education as "pink, fluffy stuff." Lewis suggests that women cease to speak "not because they cannot speak but because they are not heard" (194). This adds clarity to my own sense of trepidation in entering a workshop knowing that in all likelihood I am not safe to speak, but that the requirements of my job force me to regardless of whether I am listened to, believed, or respected.

Back Contents Next