I am volunteering to teach adult ESL this summer. I believe I mentioned that before? In any case, Thursday was my first day. I had three students (two of my students accidentally went to the other beginners class) of the most insanely varying ability levels that I feel like I'm back in the classroom with some fancy twists.
First, you can't talk to adults like you talk to kids (though I do believe in talking UP to kids instead of down to them) without being patronizing and lacking dignity. When doing "get-to-know-you" activities, it is really hard not to be cheesy and ask questions like, "What is your favorite color?" Instead, you really have to remind yourself that these are big people with big people responsibilities/problems like children and jobs and that, unlike your day-to-day students, this class is not their biggest priority.
Second, teaching adults you have to really open your heart to the specifics of what they really want and need to learn. The biggest purpose is to improve the quality of life regardless of your planned lessons and agenda. Once again, this is a lesson that is not so unfamiliar to me in that students of all ages attend to what truly relates to their lives in useful and pertinent ways.
Third, I have begun to realize that some people have managed to get through life in a way that I couldn't even imagine. I met a woman who has 6 children, all living out of the country, has been working in the United States for 7 years, and does not know how to read or write in either her native language or English. Talk about differentiation! I have all levels of beginners, but never in my life have I taught a person (adult or child) with no literacy background what-so-ever.
And finally, adults actually do what you say...the first time. That means that no matter how well you think you've planned an hour and a half lesson, you don't have enough. Things that would take half a day with my children, adults complete, practice, and retain by sheer will power in a matter of minutes. I guess it just goes to show that you really can never OVER plan.