Sunday, November 5, 2017

Adult Learners Cristina and Denise's Report from NPE 2017 Conference

Cristina Ulrich and Denise Carrasco are students at San Mateo Adult School.  They are currently in the GED and High School Diploma program, respectively, and formerly in the ESL program.  They both served as Student Leaders on the SMAS Student Council.  Cristina was Vice President of the Morning Student Council and Denise was President of the same.  They are advocates for Adult Education and Adult Schools and have attended and presented at numerous conferences, including regional and state CCAE conferences and the national AAACE conference.  Recently, they attended the Network for Public Education 2017 Conference in Oakland.  Here is their report:

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.

Adult Learner voice and leadership is crucial to the success of Adult Education.  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.

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