Sunday, November 5, 2017

Cristina and Denise: Report from NPE 2017 Conference

Cristina, Denise, Cynthia
at NPE 2017

We are Cristina Ulrich and Denise Carrasco, former ESL students at San Mateo Adult School. For a long time we have been interested in adult education and student leadership, which are two of the reasons that have kept us helping and participating in the school´s activities. We are truly convinced that getting information about this area will help us to be better people, and to be well prepared in our future activities as students, parents, and professionals. We know that adult education has been affected in different ways, cuts on funds, closed schools, cuts on programs, and so. However, we have an opportunity to still show that adult school works for us in many ways. That’s why we decided to attend to the National Public Education Conference (NPE) 2017.

The conference was held on October 14th and 15th in Oakland, CA. The main topic was about the concern of fighting for public education against the privatization of education which is part of the new Trump administration. This experience was different than others where we had participated because this time we went as spectators not as presenters. We applied to present a workshop, but the organizers decided that our topic would probably be less interesting for people since the goal was to have as many people interested in the topic as possible. We understood the decision and decided to attend three workshops because we are aware of the importance of fighting for public education, and because we like to learn about how we can help our school.

The first workshop we attended was called “United We Stand Divided We Fall: Opposing Trump´s Education Agenda.” Our first thought was “if it is against Trump´s ideology we should go.” As a general idea, the group of panelists talked about the importance of being informed about what´s the idea of education for President Trump. We immediately thought about how many of our students know about this? How many know what kind of school his or her son or daughter is attending ? How many know who Betsy DeVos is?  How many know what's the difference between a charter school and a public school? There are several questions that, as immigrants, we almost never ask. First, because of the language as a barrier to get information. Second, because of the cost of life is too expensive that people are focused on surviving, and sometimes they don't have time to investigate other things. Third, because many times we have thought “oh if my daughter or son is taking classes in a school in the U.S it is ok.” We definitely need an answer to our previous questions. We need to be informed about public education and privatization of education. We will be affected by this one day. The panelist were asking for parents to spread the information because their children take classes mostly in public schools. Parents need to know the future of public education because this time, it’s not only about San Mateo Adult School, but also it’s about the school of our children.

The second workshop was called “Ed-Tech Today: Providing Hope and Opportunity or a Pathway to the Gig Economy for Tomorrow?” We really enjoyed this workshop. The general idea was to understand how affected are children by technology and innovation, as well what is the real purpose of the use of technology at school. As parents, we can think about giving a new device to our little ones because they deserved it. However, how many of the students who have children know about the time their children spend behind a screen at school? How many of the students know about School Loop, or Summit Learning Platform?  This workshop made us think about this. We know that we can´t stop technology, but we can control its use at home. The panelist explained that it is not about how technology can help our children succeed at school and life because technology has been training our children in order to know how to get information and preparation by using different software and devices, at school and home. In some high schools children use a computer instead of notebooks. We know that this topic could be an issue for some students, and for other students it is not. However, for those interested in learning more about the information in this workshop we share with you a link from one of the panelist, so you can read information in there.

The third workshop we attended was called “Building Parent Power for Education Justice.” We definitely end up loving this workshop. We wanted to bring the panelists with us to San Mateo Adult School to share the information we got which is something really important for parents and future parents. There was an association hosting the workshop, its name is PLAN (Parent Leadership Action Network). This association has been working mainly in Oakland, CA and its purpose was to share with the audience how they engage parents to work together as a community fighting for their rights and the rights of their children attending a public school. They have been asking for a better quality education especially for students of color. The panelists gave us information about how parents can work with their children´s schools. As we mentioned before, sometimes we are ok if our children go to a school in the U.S; however, we are still the main people responsible for our children. We have to participate in their school life.

Besides this wonderful idea of working with parents, this workshop gave us the idea of having something similar in our school. We should find a better way to communicate with teachers, administrators, student community, and student leaders in order to plan a strategy to defend our school, our right to have a public school where we can learn not only English as a second language, or to get a high school diploma, but also to be engaged with the community. Privatization is going to affect all of us. It is not something related to K-12 since we are part of public education. We think there should be more students involved in these kind of events. We need to raise our voices because we are the parents they were talking about. Our children are the children they said will be affected by these measures of President Trump. Our school is part of public education. Our teachers are part of the teachers affected by the abuse in the use of technology in the curriculum. We need to find the way to integrate our school in these kinds of workshop. We were declined, maybe because we were two adult students fighting for a place in the conference. We have the same purpose they do. We want to support our school. We know it’s not going to be an easy task, but at least we can try; who knows if the next time we will be giving a different speech in our report to the adult student community.

We had an incredible and unique experience attending this conference. We learned that our school is part of the public system, so we should be there in a workshop as well on the next time. We also want to invite other students to learn a little more about your school, and your children´s schools because there is more than the things you see. Finally, we want to say thank you to the teacher´s union for its support (CFT Local 4681). Thank you so much because you basically made possible this opportunity for us. Thanks to our director, Tim Doyle, because he is still believing in us. Thanks to Marina Kravstova for your support and ideas. Thanks to Cynthia Eagleton who has been teaching us much more than English. Especially thanks to our teachers during our pathway in San Mateo Adult School because of you we are able to express our thoughts.

Thank you, Cristina and Denise, for attending the conference, providing us with this report, and doing the advocacy work you do - which has had a tremendous impact not only at our school but across the state.

Visit the Network for Public Education website for more information on some of the topics that Cristina and Denise discussed here.

Better Funding for Adult Education Means Better Preparedness for Emergencies

Long Change, a student in Distance Learning and the afternoon Advanced ESL Conversation Class, had a great idea.  She engaged in direct democracy by sharing her idea with Governor Brown and our elected representatives so that they can consider it and possibly take action on it.  

She will mail the letter to California Governor Jerry Brown and she will deliver the letter in person to the offices of State Senator Jerry Hill, California Assembly Member Kevin Mullin, and Congress Member Jackie Speier.  Their offices are all in San Mateo, very close to each other, which makes it easy to talk with one of their aides, and deliver letters or ideas in this way.  Here is the letter Long will deliver:

November 1, 2017

Dear Governor and Legislators:

North Bay Fire
In democracy, government makes a budget plan based on the majority of the people’s opinions as expressed through their elected representatives. In the wake of the Las Vegas gun shooting massacre, and the wildfires that damaged the North Bay, public safety is the big issue for Californians. People want to learn how to protect their lives and properties in the best way possible. It has become the main current issue now.

Loma Prieta Earthquake 1989
For Californians, guns and wildfire are not the only two issues that threaten people’s safety.  Earthquake is probably the biggest threat to people in a couple of decades. I affirm that government has prepared people well. Earthquake preparation planning by Adult Schools and the K12 system helps people to know what to do during earthquakes. This is especially effective in Adult Schools, because the students are adults. They can influence their neighbors and others after the training.

 I’m a student of San Mateo Adult School.  I highly recommend that California make more emergency preparation funding available for Adult Schools. When you provide training through Adult Education, you are training the larger community, because those students teach and share the information with friends, families, co-workers, neighbors, etc.

This is especially important and effective because many Adult School students are immigrants.  They can teach this information in other languages to immigrants who need the training.

When Adult Schools get more funding for any emergency preparation planning, they will do more to prepare training for people. In this way, the government is truly responsive to the people which I know is your goal.


Long  Chang    

Long shared this about engaging in direct democracy, "Since I read American history and constitution, I'm interested in knowing the real democracy situation in USA.  Jackie Speier's town meeting in last February opened my eyes.  It helped to know the situation."

You, too, can share your ideas with our elected representatives.  Ask your teacher for help in writing a letter or sending an email or preparing for a visit to their offices.  We are lucky to be in a location where it is easy to visit their offices and speak to one of their aides.  

#studentvoicematters  #adultedmatters  #adultedu  

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Sayaka's Wisdom about Student Council

Sayaka Okada
when she was running for office
in Fall 2016
Sayaka Okada was Student Council Secretary last year.  At this year's Student Council Forum she gave a speech.  I asked if we could share it on the blog.  Her words hold a lot of wisdom about the value of Student Councils, Student Leadership, and Student Democracy.  Here, with her permission, is her speech.

My name is Sayaka Okada. I was a Student Council secretary at San Mateo Adult School last year. First of all, I’d like to thank all the candidates, students, teachers and staff who have been a part of the Student Council process. Our Student Council is one of the greatest parts of San Mateo Adult School, and we can be proud of that.

          I still remember how nervous I was last year while I was sitting in the seat on the stage during the speech forum because it was my first time giving a speech in English in front of a large group of people. (And I don’t even remember what Denise, the former president at that time, said about her experience!)

          Being a member of the Student Council and working for the school as a leader were not only just good for improving my English skills, but were also great experiences which have changed my attitude and way of thinking about my life in the US. I moved to the US two years ago because of my husband’s job transfer. I quit my job which I had for 10 years. I didn’t have any friends here in California, and had no chance to get involved with the community because I don’t have children and was always afraid to take the first step toward any new places, so I felt I had lost my role and goals in life, except just as a homemaker.

          However, after becoming Student Council secretary, I started to restore my self-confidence by working with other officers from diverse cultural backgrounds and meeting many people from outside of school. Sometimes it was not easy to understand each other or to deal with problems, but we always worked together and helped each other. It made me feel that I had a role and was important in this community. Also, every time we finished one thing, we set the next goal and made great efforts. Setting a goal was really meaningful in my life to live more actively no matter what the goal was or how short the period of time. The reason I decided to run for the Student Council officer was I just wanted to give something back to our school, but I’ve still received more gifts in my life through my experiences in this school.

          Finally, I’d like to tell all the candidates that you will get amazing experiences through this process, including this speech forum. Don’t forget that you are not just rivals in this election. All of you are already companions working together. All the students who are here can be the next Student Council members if you are not afraid to take the first step to a new place.

Here’s my last words from my speech last year, “Let’s make our school a much better place together for everyone who are here now, and who will be here in the future.” Thank you.

Thank you, Sayaka, for sharing this wisdom with us!


Monday, October 30, 2017

Marina Kravtsova: A Student to Staff Success Story

Adult Ed Works!  A SMAS Student to SMAS Staff Success Story

Marina at her desk in the SMART Center
Did you know that several SMAS staff members are former SMAS students?  How did they go from student to staff?  Teacher Cynthia sat down with one of these success stories, Marina Kravtsova, to find out.  You might know Marina - she is our English Learner Specialist. Last year she was also our Student Council Advisor.  As part of her work, she helps coordinate the Student Ambassador program and works with Patty and Cynthia to provide students with information about resources.  Monday through Friday, you can find her at her desk in the SMART Center. 

When did you start attending SMAS as a student?
In August, 2011

What level of ESL did you start at and what level did you finish at?
Low Beginning to High Advanced.

What other classes did you take besides ESL classes?
Writing Intensive, Afternoon Listening Speaking, Finding Job, Gardening Club, Pronunciation, Distance Learning, and Student Council.

Student Leaders
Hitomi, Marco, and Marina
explaining Red for Adult Ed
and Red T-shirts Campaign to Students
Marina is shy to mention so Teacher Cynthia will tell you that Marina was very active as an advocate for our school and all Adult Schools during a difficult time for Adult Education.  She worked hard with other student advocates to carry the message that Adult Education Matters.  You can see some of her advocacy here, here, here, here, and here.  She was the first Adult School student to ever be part of state planning for Adult Education; she was part of the Workgroup that helped plan for the new system for Adult Education. She presented workshops at CCAE, and CATESOL, and participated in a Harvard symposium on Adult Education.  In addition to all this, she started and ran a Parent Club at SMAS for immigrant parents for several years.

How long did you study at SMAS?
Around 4 years.

What was your goal in the beginning?
Be able to speak with parents and teachers in my sons' schools

What was your goal at end?
To get a job.

What is your job at SMAS?
English Learner Specialist - testing students, placing them in classes, orienting within SMAS programs.   

What do you like best about working at SMAS?
I like the people I work with.

How did you feel about applying to work as staff at your own school?  
Less scary; It was my comfort zone, but at the same time it was little bit weird to be interviewed by people i knew for years as my teachers.  

Do you have any advice for other ESL students?
Don't give up!

#student2staff  #adultedworks  #learner2earner #adultedmatters  #don'tgiveup

Marina in action:

Marching in the San Mateo Parade

Denise, Marina, and Cristina
fundraising for their trip to the AAACE Conference -
a national conference about Adult Education.
They presented at the conference.

Marina mailing her letter to Governor Brown on Red Letter Day

Passport to Employment Students Visit Career Fair

Passport to Employment students from San Mateo Adult Schools job search class had a wonderful experience at the Career Fair September 28th, 2017. Several students were able to use their English skills to talk to employers about opportunities in a variety of fields including, healthcare, sales,  real-estate, financial, transportation, customer service other industrial service jobs as well as California State Park positions. Several of those who attended were able to secure multiple interviews and are now in the process of deciding what employment or volunteer options they choose.
At the Fair

Thumbs up on a positive attitude and positive results!