S is for Survival
by Tarin Bready
Vocational Case Manager, Adult Education, Capital Region BOCES
In a recent meeting with my manager, we discussed job and program performance. She asked me how to rate the last year. “It is an ‘S’,” I said decidedly. “And the ‘S’ does not stand for ‘Satisfactory’; it stands for ‘Survival’.”
If you are reading this and you are part of a program that weathered the pandemic or bounced back after social distancing – congratulations, you are a survivor! Since March 2020, NYS Adult Education programs have scraped and scrambled to continue student services. Thankfully, we were given permission to provide distance learning, but that opened up a whole slew of issues. Over the last sixteen months, many worked on getting technology and WiFi to staff and students while at the same time learning and then training others regarding new software and ways of communicating. We focused on mental and physical health for our students and ourselves. When we found out we weren’t being funded in a timely fashion and programs were in danger of closing, we communicated with those who control the release of money.
Not only was it an exhausting year because of pandemic stress, and trying to stay open while maintaining distance, but we had to continually prove our worth and impact on the community. (If you’re still feeling the strain and you have not done so already, I suggest reading Kelli Cooney’s suitable and calming blog post. )
I joined the NYACCE board the first summer of the pandemic. I was excited by the opportunity, but initially I also felt confused by how I could make a positive impact. I believe this is similar to how our new ESL and HSE students felt as they joined the world of webinars and homework packets at the height of social distancing. Once earnest students got more comfortable with the mode of education and the expectations and work, they realized that technology can be easy and friendly and learning still achievable. Through computer screens, they saw that educators and students share the same goals. During this rapidly changing way of educating, watching teachers persevere and students work hard to earn certificates and diplomas was inspiring. At the same time, on the NYACCE board, through online meetings, emails, and phone calls, I met a lot of amazing experts who shared solid advice and plans. Like our resilient students, our NYACCE team has had some great follow-through during an exceptionally trying time.
What are some major topics NYACCE has been working on during the pandemic?
Advocacy – Last year, it was mind-bending to learn that many programs had not been properly paid per grant contracts. Some programs were ignored or told to exist without adequate (retroactive!) funding. As an educational community that interacts with the exact population who need safety nets and resources, we strove to showcase our relevancy. Not only do we share pertinent and timely health information and referrals to wraparound services (housing, legal aid, food pantries, etc.) with our population of adult learners, we are on board to help with current and future job training, certification, and searching. Past NYACCE President and current Regional Coordinator, Lisa Lee, rallied program managers, teachers, staff, volunteers, and student ambassadors to connect with local and state legislators. While we found staunch advocates in many of our elected officials, it turns out that a surprising number of legislators did not know how much our programs have to offer. Our winter advocacy zooms, primarily run by Lisa Lee (now also one of the 2021 COABE State Advocates for Adult Education Fellows), were necessary to shed light on our programs’ financial and PPE needs. Our advocates also encouraged us to step more into the spotlight and continue to speak up about what our programs can do to assist in job growth, post-pandemic. If you would like more information on program advocacy or if you are interested in joining the Legislative Advocacy Committee, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Being a sizable squeaky wheel helps ensure that our interconnected communities continue to have well-run and adequately funded adult education programs.
Communication – “Networking has been cited as the number one unwritten rule of success in business. Who you know really impacts what you know.” - Sallie Krawcheck
The field of education has adapted to business models over time. Our outcomes are as important as ever, and in many instances they can be quantified. What I have noticed, especially during the pandemic, is how those in educational programs have worked together to share information that helped keep systems solvent and relevant. NYACCE members have informed each other on important news from NYSED, RAEN, SAANYS, COABE, NYCCAL, NYATEP, and so on. We’ve shared surveys, action alerts, sell sheets, etc. NYACCE keeps our website and other communication accounts (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) updated. All NYACCE members have information and resources at the tap of a keyboard.
If you have questions, please feel free to contact us! Also, some members noticed they had not been receiving emails recently. If you’ve made sure that incoming NYACCE emails are marked as “not junk” and you are still not getting our emails, please inform us. Sometimes our account is a bit finicky, but fixable, and we definitely want you to be “in the know”!
Training/Webinars – While NYACCE was unable to have an in-person conference in 2020 and 2021, free webinars were offered to help educate membership. Topics included organization, mental health, how to use Google and Nearpod, math tools, introduction to Burlington English, and more. Until we host our 2022 in-person conference, we plan to continue offering free webinars. Many members took one minute to fill out a webinar survey; if you have not yet completed the survey, please let us know what future webinars you would like us to offer. Clickable webinar survey!
NYACCE has a large membership and there are other categories board members worked on in the last year and a half, including awards, grants, and interim policies. It has been a wild ride, at times frustrating and puzzling. As author Merrill Perlman wrote regarding 2020 Words Of The Year, “Our personal favorite didn’t even make the finals, probably because it couldn’t be printed in most newspapers. Let’s just say it began with four letters and ended in “show.”” Yes, 2020 and 2021 have been chaotic. But ultimately, they’ve also been successful. Adult education is more important than ever, and our voices and actions are an integral part of the learning process and employment recovery. United, we are strong.
See you in September, either online or in-person! Stay well.