NLA Discussion: Connecting Listening to Students with Policy
erno at esinet.net
Mon Nov 22 15:19:13 EST 1999
David Rosen writes:
>Consider what you can do to make a meeting possible between a state or
>national legislator and a group of adult learners or graduates, one in
>which there is open, honest, comfortable discussion, in which students
>have a chance to talk about their goals, programs' strengths and
>weaknesses, how they would like programs to be held accountable, and what
>the range of learning opportunities needs to include.
>If you do arrange such a meeting, please post a message to the NLA list.
>Let us know what you did, how it worked out, what you think might have
>been accomplished, how students or graduates felt about it, how you felt
Charlottesville Adult Education students recently invited local
legislators to visit their Basic Skills/GED/ESL classes. Last Thursday,
Delegate Mitch van Yahres, our state representative, spent the morning
visiting classes and joined in a pot luck luncheon. Prior to the visit,
students wrote letters to individual legislators telling about themselves
and the importance of their education. All students were a bit nervous
about having a guest. They talked about what they would do in class and
some wrote presentations.
Here's what happened: in each class, Del. van Yahres gave a brief
summary of what he does as a legislator. In the Basic Skills/GED class, he
met with each student, shook their hands and talked with them about their
education. Students then had an opportunity to ask questions- these ranged
from putting prayer in schools to increasing teachers' salaries to more
funding for adult education/ESL classes and how to lobby-write letters,
call,etc. The students felt that Del van Yahres understood their needs.
Many heads nodded when he talked about the value and necessity of education.
He also took time to listen; both to questions in a large group and then
informally during the luncheon. Many ESL students were pleased to have a
conversation about their issues and brought up the fact that they have a lot
to offer the community in terms of teaching others about different cultures,
becoming part of the workforce, and volunteering. They also made clear that
this class was for more than just learning English; for many it is their
link to the community.
The lunch brought everyone together, there was sushi, kim chee, and
enchilada casserole alongside turkey, collard greens, and pumpkin pie.
Adults who had never lived outside of Charlottesville met adults from
Bosnia, Venezuela, Korea, etc. They shared food and conversation. This was
the beginning relationships for these classes.
What impact did this have on our program? Some teachers are already
planning the next inter-class meeting. An ESL teacher is thinking about
Community Outreach field trips and speakers for her class. An ESL
newspaper Class will be offered next semester to provide an opportunity for
students to both go out in the community to gather information and come
together to publish a paper to be used by all students.
The original intent was to raise awareness and develop relationships
with legislators so that when funding issues arise, they would have many
faces to put with adult education. The student letters may have an impact;
it's too soon to tell. Many students have already received replies from
legislators. The next step is to present to the school board. They, too,
have received many letters, and some students have expressed an interest in
speaking to the board.
We all learned from this experience in more ways than we imagined.
Regional Adult Education Specialist
201 4th St NW
Charlottesville, VA 22903
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