Are you a literacy practitioner, tutor or coordinator? Have you ever heard excuses like these from your learners?
“I felt I was too old to learn.”
“I thought people would laugh at me for not knowing the basics.”
“It’s more important to work than to learn new things.”
“I don’t have time.”
- Become agitated when they’re asked to use their literacy skills.
- Walk away or disengage.
- Show no interest in the situation.
These excuses aren’t my words. They’re in a nifty little .pdf handout from Hawaii literacy.
Literacy professionals work hard to help learners overcome their own personal, mental and emotional barriers to help them improve their literacy skills and experience the joy of learning new skills.
In my work with literacy and educational organizations, I’m often asked to give workshops on marketing and social media. I’ll be honest, it’s hard work.
In Guerrilla Marketing for Non-Profits, Jay Conrad Levinson, Frank Adkins and Chris Forbes make some insightful observations about marketing in non-profit organizations. They note that:
Some non-profit organizations treat marketing as something that is beneath their dignity or even against their core values. (p. 6)
I have found that to be true in some cases, but not all.
With more demand for social media marketing in literacy organizations, over the past 12-24 months, I’ve noticed something very curious. Some times when I talk with Executive Directors or program coordinators, I hear lots of reasons why they’re not “into” social media. The reasons go something like this:
“It’s more important to do the work work than to learn about social media.”
“People might laugh at me for not knowing the basics. I don’t need to know that stuff anyway.”
“I’m a professional! I’m a leader. People look up to me. I don’t want to admit that I needed help.”
“I’m too old to learn this social media stuff.”
Interesting correlations, no? The reasons are the same… It’s just the context that’s different. The excuses learners use to avoid engaging in literacy learning are the same ones some educators and non-profit professionals use to avoid engaging with social media and marketing.
The excuses learners use to avoid getting help with reading, writing and literacy skills are the very same excuses I hear in my work with educators, non-profit professionals and sometimes parents, when it comes to engaging with social media.
Michael Fullan, one of my favorite educational leadership gurus, says, “Leaders learning from each other, raises the bar for all.” I encourage everyone to learn new things every day.
If you work with adults who are choose to make themselves vulnerable and allow themselves to be ripped out of their comfort zones and have the courage to take new steps into unknown territory, don’t just applaud them. Stand in solidarity with them by making yourself equally vulnerable and pushing yourself out of your own comfort zone.
Oh, and just so you don’t think I’m preaching without practicing, here’s a picture of me, last November at the Kennedy Space Centre, on an reduced-gravity training wall. It was part of a full-day of an Astronaut Training Experience Day that included getting strapped in and learning to maneuver up that wall, just like NASA astronauts do as part of their training. Saying I was ripped out of my comfort zone was an understatement. I do things like that every now and again… just for the experience. The older and more expert we become, the more important it is, I think, to remember what it’s like to be a complete novice, to throw the excuses out the window and just put ourselves out there to learn something new.
Social media doesn’t hurt half as much as that harness giving me a wedgie did. I’d put money on it.
Go on. Try something new this month. Just because you can.
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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.