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Tommeka Semien – Tuesday, July 12, 2016

People often ask what it takes for a person to be successful in an adult education program.  Well, it takes a lot–and often more than people think.  It takes time, commitment and dedication–the same things that it takes for any other student.  It also takes resources including a little bit of money.  In addition, a good personality is surely on the  “what it takes” not required but strongly recommended list.  Here’s the hard part…  if an aspiring adult education student has time, commitment dedication, a little bit of money and a good personality, they will still need just a little bit more.  To be successful in adult education, participants also need to have or develop three important character traits:  motivation, determination, resilience.

While this might seem reasonable, it is sometimes difficult.  Adult ed students don’t always work in a job that pays well or offers flexible scheduling.  If you tack on family responsibilities–both immediate and extended, time and money are often a luxury that students don’t enjoy.  As an adult education provider, the Literacy Council is committed to helping adult students find success in our programs.  We show them how to make time, we focus on commitment and determination; community members and organizations share their money; and, if a service provider is kind and genuine, almost anyone can find their inner social butterfly.

Motivation only comes one of two ways–internally or externally.  Anyone who comes to an adult education program has the gumption to try something hard.  However, there is often a reason or a “why” that motivates them to seek out a program.  Whatever the “why”, it is important for most students to be constantly reminded of how their achievement will help them to address the why that led them to the program in the first place.  Whether for personal satisfaction, to prove a point to someone else, for a new job, or any other reason, personal motivation or outside forces must be there for someone to find success in an adult education program.

Determination, per an unknown author, is the key to all human success.  This is true for any student including adults who return to school.  Every single day of class is a challenge.  A day of instruction typically includes a review and something new.  Students are challenged to learn a new fact or skill everyday.  Well when you’ve been out of school for five, ten or fifteen, years, there’s a lot to learn and some days just won’t feel like successes.  Adults enrolling in a learning program must have a strong will and a mind set on success.

Resilience is what you have when you go to work on Monday even when your car didn’t start.  You had an easier option–you could have gone back inside and waited for tomorrow.  No car trouble… how about forgetting your flash drive when you have a presentation in another city?  Do you cancel the presentation or use a lifeline to get help?  Well adult education students are just like everyone else.  They have troubles, they have drama, they have limited time and, on top of that, they are going back to school–usually while they continue to work and take care of family members.  Resilience is the quality that allows you to get back up when you’re knocked down at 8am by life or an algebra problem.

Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to support an adult education student.  Barriers abound including transportation problems, lack of childcare, negative school experiences, not enough time, and others with judgmental eyes.  Adult education students need support from friends, family members, co-workers, other program participants, staff and anyone else who can help.  If everyone comes together, we can help our current and future students develop the character traits needed to succeed in adult education and on to training or careers.  But the question remains, how do we help adults with motivation, determination and resilience?  We can help by showing faith, understanding, and a little bit of love…  a mentoring spirit and a kind heart.