When I was in college there was always an adult learner in one of my lectures who would "ask" a question that inevitably launched into a personal story: "Can Ophelia's complex be from her relationship with her father or is it possible she had a mental illness? Like in war--I was in the war, Vietnam, and once I was running from enemy fire with shrapnel in a my leg...".
An adult learner character profile might look something like this:
Age: 45-90 yrs
Dress: Blousey tops, sweats and sandals.
Accessories: Newspaper, reading glasses and bottled water.
Mood: Grumpy, always wanting to challenge the professor.
Skills: Telling long stories and getting off subject.
Attributes: Zero knowledge of computers.
Not all the adult learners in my current class are as bumbling and disruptive as I remember. Then again, in this regard, as I get older maybe I can't see the forest for the trees. But there is one adult learner that stands out in my class: LaShawna*. I only know LaShawna's name because she has told the class on multiple occasions as well as informing us that she owns her own "weave" business and wants to open a pet store. She's also been overheard saying, "I had to fight to educate myself and ain't nobody gonna take it from me or I'll put these nails (holding up blue fingernails) in their head."
I identify LaShawna as an adult learner because she is in fact an adult and matches almost perfectly with the aforementioned character profile. That said, I'd like to add an addendum to that profile--she's slow and breathes primarily out of her mouth. Case in point, day 2 of our class our teacher asked, "Does anyone have any questions about the syllabus. After today, I'm not going to mention it again and you're on your own."
(LaShawna raises her hand and speaks loudly.)
LaS: Yes, teacher! I have a question. What's a syllabus?
Teacher: A syllabus? (He laughs.) I think you're in the wrong class if you have to ask that.
LaS: Oh, this isn't Business En-tra-pra-new-rall-ship? (She thumbs quickly through a class schedule.)
T: No, I mean, yes, this is the right class. It's just, well, a syllabus is a guide to a class.
T: Like a table of contents.
LaS: Like in a book? Is it for the book we have to buy?
T: No, it's a road map for what we're going to focus and study for the semester.
LaS: Road map?
T: Yes. A road map.
LaS: Like for drivin'?
T: Uhmm, yeah, sort of.
LaS: What's that have to do with Business?
(The class laughs uncomfortably.)
T: It just tells you what we're doing. Don't worry, you'll be fine.
LaS: Okay. That's good. I just want to understand. And it's called a sill-a-bus?
T: Yes. A syllabus.
*For the record, LaShawna is Black and arguably owning a "weave" shop and acting loud and sassy may be a stereotype of her culture. She's an easy target, for sure. I often look to the other Black students in the class for their reactions on LaShawna's antics. Turns out, they're rolling their eyes along with me.