Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Cultivating Student Voice & Advocacy

CCAE State Conference April 19 and 20, 2013.
Workshop:  ESL Student Councils and Cultivating Student Voice and Advocacy
                      by Lisa Dolehide and Cynthia Eagleton

This is the handout for the Student Voice and Advocacy portion:

(Lisa's information about ESL Student Councils will be in a separate post)

Cultivating Student Voice and  Advocacy

(hit the "read more" link to see the full handout)

Setting the stage:

What is Adult Ed? –   Who does it serve?  History, current situation, future?

How does AE benefit the student?
How does AE benefit the community?
How does that student benefit the community?

Basic idea:

Call on the knowledge, skills, ideas, and wisdom of the students

Provide them with the tools they need – language skills, facts, context, resources

to determine their message & their audience and then deliver the message

Meet them where they’re at – help them take that next step forward

Basic process:

Document the value of Adult Ed

Decide who needs to know about it

Deliver the documentation

Cultivating Student Activism and Leadership
at San Mateo Adult School

1. ESL Student Council. Communication cirquit – students communicate through the council – whether it’s students to admin or visa-versa. Council members are informed about AEM issues. They in turn inform the classes they represent. And the Student Council has paid for some AEM efforts – bumper stickers, banners, etc.  ESL Student Council are an important part of encouraging student voice at SMAS.  They are leadership and democracy in action.  Click here to see Lisa Dolehide's handout on ESL Student Councils.

2. ESL student, written in sheltered English. Info includes AEM info and efforts – marches, letter writing campaigns, etc., as well as info about Student Council, school events, holidays, etc.

3. AEM blog It’s not written in sheltered English but I try to write in straightforward English – 8th grade level.

4. Facebook. SMAS page. A great communication tool for so many things – classes and events at school, local resources, and of course, information to help the school community work on behalf of Adult Education. In general, fosters connections, builds sense of community, and serves as an instant message board – all good for AEM.

5. Continuing effort to elicit, include and act on student ideas, needs, and wants

6. An outside glassed-in bulletin board where we post info about AEM and other matters. (Paid for my ESl Student Council.)

7. Various campaigns and events that give students the opportunity to speak up and share their story – press conference, marches to Sacramento, Plate at the Table campaign, Red Letter Day (letter writing campaign), etc.

8. Photographs of students with plates citing why they value AE – framed in student lounge.

9., video clip testimonials about the power and value of Adult Ed. Submission guidelines are on the website. Weebly.  Made with the assistance of a friend.

10. I started this one a long while ago and don’t add to it now. The idea was to showcase stats and stories of success for inspiration and documentation.

11. Student-made videos. Bruce Neuberger taught video to ESL students. Class now cut due to budget cuts but ex-students come in and do video for us. 

12. Adult Education Matters t-shirts. Alliance Graphics – This is a union shop – no sweatshops! Nice stuff. 13 dollars per shirt.

Teachers Patricia and David with new AEM t-shirts

13. Adult Education Matters bumper stickers. Just two bucks! “Adult Education Matters” with the blog address. The Student Council paid for them. Sold at cost.

14. A banner: “Adult Education Matters – with blog address, “ hung on the fence at the entrance of school. I believe it was less than 100 dollars. Stu Council paid for it.

15. “Red Letter Day” and several other big letter writing campaigns held in time leading up to big Legislature votes. Thousands of letters. Info on both blogs on how to write letters.Our first Red Letter Day 2010.

16. Letters to the Editor. Teachers supported and assisted students in writing letters to the editor and explained the process and value of speaking up in this way.

17. Petition. Several sites for free petitions. We used for the Rebuild Adult Education Petition.

18. To help students understand the petition, a powerpoint explaining it:

19. Adult Education Week student-created-and-painted banner we can use after year.

20. Adult Education Week “How Has SMAS Helped You” Essay Contest. Student winners read essays at assemblies. Local dignitary attended. Video made of morning assembly (not completed or released yet). Winning essays published on AEM blog.

21. Univision – thanks to student idea and follow through – came to AE Week. (You can access clip on the link on 22 below)

22. Adult Education Week promoted and celebrated on blog

23. A youtube channel. AdultEdMatters.

24. A press conference summer 2012  A real success.

25. Activities like International Day and Night in which students take leadership roles, get involved, develop leadership skills, etc.

26. Documentation and celebration of student activities – I Day & Night, Earth Day Clean-Up, School Garden, etc. Post videos on blog & youtube. Sell videos at cost to students.

27. Way back in the day, when we were paying off new buildings, students had flea markets to raise money to pay off debt as early as possible. This was student idea to do this.

28. Relationship with local press. Not just for AEM issues but in general – for school events, etc. By trying to have a good relationship with them, we hope they will cover what is happening now during this time of crisis for Adult Ed. And ex-students may read about what is happening at and with our school via the local paper and then get involved.  The San Mateo Daily Journal, our local "can-do" paper, has given us excellent coverage over the years.

29. We are trying to build more contacts with the business community. An idea I have not gotten off the ground is to showcase one local business which employs a student or ex-student – each week on Facebook.

30. A membership drive for CCAE. We did increase CCAE membership – with both staff and students. We tried to build awareness of CCAE with student body.

31. Effort to include all departments of the school – ESL, Fifty Plus, Parent Ed, Voc Ed, GED & HS Diploma, etc. Work from the truth these are intersecting groups – some ESL students are seniors or will go on to GED, etc. Effort to remind people: we are connected and intersect in many ways. More to go in this area but I think it is important.

32. An email list serve via risup. When you are member of the listserve, you can send and receive email from other members. This makes for a quick and easy way to share information about AEM matters. It never really got off the ground. Not enough people utilized it. But might work for others.

33. Promotion of A4CAS – Alliance for California Adult Schools – as a place where students can have a voice, share and learn info with students, staff and community across the state.

Wonderful stuff other communities have done and are doing:

1. Last year L.A. led the way in standup activism with their blog and many, many actions. Review the Save Adult Ed blog to see all they did. And remember, they were on the chopping block for almost complete destruction but they saved over half their program. As the largest Adult School in CA, that’s a huge deal.

New!  LA now has the United Adult Students website.  Over Spring Break, they collected 10,000 signatures in 10 days.  Gilberta Gonzalez, a student in UAS, delivered the petition to the Legislature and spoke at the CCAE State Conference.  LA Times about UAS and the petition.

2. L.A. and others use Twitter. This is a tech took I have yet to pick up – primarily because I am on my smart phone too much, already. If I pick up Twitter… let’s just say it wouldn’t be good. But it could be good if others did!

3. COSAS has been putting out the wonderful Save Your Adult School blog for a long while now -Fantastic fact finding and analysis. COSAS meets weekly. For me, they are like a Think Tank for AE. So appreciate!

4. Karen Arthur out of Oxnard Adult School started A4CAS on Facebook – the Alliance for California Adult Schools - where we can use the power of social media to connect, share, learn from, support, and work together. Such a powerful and important opportunity for all of us, any of us, to come together. Especially when Adult Schools are being closed and cut on a constant basis, it’s easy to feel alone, discouraged, and lose hope. A4CAS is a like a warm café where you can meet with others and recharge your batteries. Updates & resources on

5. Azusa now has a terrific website and petition. Their website has a history and future section for their school. Very powerful. They used signon for their petition which is directed to their school board:

6. JD used to start

7. Florecita Bogan, a student at the Vista Adult School in the San Diego area, started her own petition, and gathered more than 600 signatures.

8. Fairfield Suisun held a beautiful Luminaria ceremony to honor the value of Adult Education and AE students, past and present.

9. Monty Lish, a teacher in the Sweetwater Adult Ed program made a fabulous video to explain the situation and get out the signatures for the Rebuild Adult Ed Petition. I’ll be honest with you, I cried when I found out about that that video. Why? Because I felt supported. Supporting each other… supporting those of us trying to support and activate others, is important, too. Sometimes the cheerleaders need cheering. I know I do.

10.  An AEM blogpost on recent actions by Adult Schools.

Things I found along the way

1. Pictures speak louder than words.

They are deeper than language and can move across linguistic and cultural barriers. The images of the hands got a lot of “likes” on FB – because we when we see hands we intuitively understand… yes, different parts can work together for one purpose, out of one source. We know what a butterfly is: the result of a slow and delicate change. We understand and desire the beautiful result of that process.

Adult Education Matters!  Stop the Cuts!

3 days - 3 emails

Adult Education matters!

2.  Courage deserves recognition.

Tim congratulates a winner of the "How Has SMAS Helped You?" essay contest winner

Pictures of students taking action and speaking up honors student value and power.

Students appreciate that. Others are inspired by it. We all benefit from it.

3.  Thanking people is a good and powerful action.

Power is about choice and responsibility. It’s about knowing you have a choice, making a choice, and taking responsibility for the consequences. People do not have to choose to do right, do good, be active, stand up, speak out. If they do, it is good and helpful and powerful to acknowledge and thank them, publically whenever possible.

Lou helps deliver coats for the One Warm Coat project.
Thank you, Lou!

4. The Optimism Bias

You can listen to a Ted Talk about it at

As noted in the talk, the fact that 80% of us are hard-wired to be optimistic has its good and bad sides (haha ;-) but it terms of how that truth plays into cultivating student voice (and my own), I will tell you this:
Indeed, people respond more - and more often with the desired result, when the images, ideas, and words I am putting out there are positive. Asking people to join in with something that is positive, possible, and ongoing brings good result. Change up any of the other three things – negative, unlikely, not yet started – and things get a lot harder.

While keeping it positive may be easy for some, it’s not always easy for me. Sometimes I feel discouraged, tired, angry, sad and/or frustrated especially given all that has happened to Adult Ed the past four years. If I have an ongoing and largely positive relationship with someone, and I express those feelings, there may be a good result. People may care I am upset and want to know why. They may choose to get involved or take an action if I am upset about something they care about, too. But if this is my first contact with someone or if I have been negative, angry, sad, frustrated for some while, then I lose the connection and any hope of support, help, or involvement is lost, too.

It’s really important to me to share all this with you because I have found “cultivating student voice” to be a lot more complicated than simply showing someone how to write a letter to the editor or the Legislature.

I truly want to be of service when it comes to this issue. I want you to go home not just with the tools to help students raise their voices but the tools to help them when they don’t or won’t. And the same holds true for co-workers, admin, and community.

Change is sometimes a delicate process.  Patience, protection, support and understanding help.

5. Assessing Risk

Choosing to speak up means assessing the risk between keeping silent and speaking up.

Risk can be both real and perceived. As teachers, it is very important to be aware of this.
We must help students assess which risks are real (ex: an undocumented student publishing an autobiographical story with their name and address on the front page of the local paper) and which are perceived (ex: I will lose the respect of my family and peers if I have a mistake in my letter to the Governor).
Remember, the feelings themselves are the not the real risk. The feelings – anxiety, fear, etc. – are real. But the actual risk is always about the loss of something – love, safety, income, respect, etc.. The feelings must be lifted off like you would gently lift off a bandaid that has been on a wound for a long time. Look underneath: Is that risk real? Or is it imagined? Help the student find out. And please be kind. Removing bandaids hurts.

If the risk is “imagined” (ex: no one will like me if I assert myself), discuss how taking action can actually relieve anxiety, even as you remember that it sometimes increases anxiety as you do it. Overcoming fear increases fear. You have to be willing and able to feel “discomfort” – as doctors like to call it – while you do so. Once you’re through and over the hump, you feel better. Often much, much better. But getting there can be hard.

But remember as well: that the risk is always the risktaker’s… not ours. We must respect what another person does and doesn’t do. We don’t face the consequences. They do. Perhaps those feelings of anxiety are too much for them. If so, we need to respect that and if they do want to be involved, find a way that works for them.

All of us – students, staff, community members – are at different points on the scale where activism and speaking up are concerned. Help students (and co-workers) take the next step. There is no wrong. And one person’s easy step is someone else’s too scary a risk to take step. Be respectful. Be inviting. What are you scared to do? Remember your own fears and inertia as you help others to transcend theirs.

6. Last but very important bit:

Helping someone finding their voice doesn’t mean telling them what to say.

It just means helping them to adjust the microphone.

Teacher Laeticia adjusts the microphone for an essay winner

They already have a message. Our job is to help them deliver it – and listen.

Bonus Warning:
Don’t put email addresses in a blog!
Use “at” – not @.

Spammers use email addresses to scan, spam, hack,
and other short a attacks.


Cooperation and connection between schools

     Build on existing structures, create new ones, look for opportunities to connect and cooperate
     Begin with what we have in common
     Focus on the big picture. 
     Practice generosity.
     Learn from each other.

Cooperation and connection with the community

     Strengthen ties with employers, media, schools, PTA, parks & rec, medical clinics, non profits

Connect with the organizations our students belong to

    PTA, AYSO, Girl Scouts, Churches, Temples, Mosques, AARP,
    Students to share info about AE with those organizations
    Students enlist support of those organizations for AE

Counting up the $ value of AE students

      There's a $ value to AE.  Enlist students to add that up.
      What is the $ value of a healthy senior?  What's that worth to the state?
       How about a parent who raises a successful child?
      How about the contributions of someone with a high school diploma?
      What's the $ value of a citizen who participates in local civic life?

Increased use of media – both social & traditional

      Strengthen connections with existing media
      Strengthen connections with non-English media
      Increase use of social media
      Connect with investigative journalists
       Produce our own news, articles, information, books, blogs

More student participation in CCAE

     CCAE is the only organization which includes students
           but there is much room for growth in this area
        How can they be welcomed and included?

         What is the role of students in CCAE?
         How can they have a stronger voice in CCAE?
         How can CCAE use and celebrate their talents, strengths, and perspective?

Student Leadership Academy
Raised at the Bay Section CCAE Conference.
Bob Harper had some great ideas about how we can put it into action in the future
* Adult schools each nominate 1 or 2 students for SLA
* A panel – maybe from CCAE? – chooses winners – maybe 1 per region
* Winners spend 1 week shadowing teacher, admin, ed lobbyist, legislator (4 weeks total)

* Learning – what are student/teacher needs, how does admin allocate resources, what does lobbyist have to decide/pursue, issues facing legislators
* They learn how the whole system works – from ground up. They can use that experience to better serve the community as leaders. Maybe some will eventually become teachers, admin, lobbyists or legislators/other govt service positions.
* They bring this experience back to their school and the state through some project… it doesn’t have to be big… they just decide what it is and try to do it.
* Wouldn’t it be cool if they could shadow the Gov for a week, too?

Note:  There is a powerpoint that goes with this handout but I don't know how to link to the blog. 
I'll get some info on that.

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