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April 13, 2015

Be an Education Advocate: Learn, Connect, and Speak Up

By Meghan Everette
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    I think I might be an education advocate. I say “think” because I never considered that my lone little voice was enough to make a difference. Oh sure, we've all heard the "power of one person" speeches. We know individuals who have triumphed over incredible odds and become spokespersons. But that’s not me, is it? I don’t have any incredible background story. I feel like I’m just a regular teacher, but that right there is the point. I actually have some very valuable opinions on teaching, students, and what’s right for education. Believe it or not, people listen.

     

     

    Why Isn’t It Simple?

    your voice matters

    Like most people, I have self-esteem that I don’t like to see crushed. You have to be brave. You have to believe your voice as a teacher matters. And you have to be willing to stand up for yourself. If you can do those things, (and you probably already do them every day in some way) then you can be an education advocate. Put on those big kid undies and get ready to stand up for your beliefs!

    I’ve boiled it down to three things you need to do if you want to become an advocate for education — or for anything, really. How effective you are at getting heard is a matter of how much time, effort, and learning you put into your message. Basically, you have to: 1) know the facts, 2) connect, and 3) speak up. That’s it.

    Know the Facts

    know the factsRead up on the issues important to you. Know both sides of the argument so you aren’t surprised when someone plays the opposition. It depends on what you want to advocate for, but following local and state leaders on Twitter, as well as belonging to professional groups are good starting places. Follow the local, state, and national news. Find out who the education correspondent at your newspaper is. Follow sites that report on education news and stay in the know. You might be surprised at what is out there. Remember the difference between fact and opinion and ground your arguments in the former.

    know the facts about education issues

    Connect

    dream togetherMaking connections is key to getting your voice heard. You don't have to agree with your coworkers or the politics of the local lawmakers, but you can connect on something. My mom once told me to start every parent conference with a compliment about their child, so the parent can see that you care. People in general are the same way; compliment a recent ruling, news article, or interview. Make a personal connection (food and sports cover almost everyone you meet) before you get to the nitty-gritty. Once you get to the point of your conversation, remember to stay respectful and focus on those facts.

     

    connect at conferece connected educators

    Connect with other educators through your personal learning network, Twitter, education chats, local ed camps, and local and national organizations such as ASCD, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, National Science Teacher’s Association, or the International Literacy Association, to name just a few. Connect with local school board and policy makers by attending meetings and open forums. Introduce yourself there, and continue the connections following up with an email or a short note. Make a business card (an oddity for teachers, I know) and keep yourself "visible."

    Speak Up

    think twiceGet vocal on issues that are important to you. If you feel strongly about a local tax issue, figure out who is in charge and volunteer time to canvas the area. Do you wish state lawmakers were talking to teachers in your area? Email them. Write them. Set up visits with them. Invite them to your school. Figure out who is on the education committee and make a point to contact each one in a positive way. Become an expert in social media. Schedule tweets and posts or write a blog. Remember to present facts and stay respectful. If you throw your local admins under the bus, they are likely to do the same to you. Posting statistics gets your pointi across more effectively than posting opinions.

    tweet education issues

    The point is, I realized that not only do I have a lot of opinions, I have a valuable voice. I teach children every day. I interact with parents throughout the community every day. The choices being made locally and nationally affect my kids Every Single Day. I need to speak up for my kids, my school, my community, myself, and my profession. If we don’t, who will?

     

    What ways are you able to affect change? Where do you struggle?

    twitter @bamameghan rss Meghan Everette

     

    I think I might be an education advocate. I say “think” because I never considered that my lone little voice was enough to make a difference. Oh sure, we've all heard the "power of one person" speeches. We know individuals who have triumphed over incredible odds and become spokespersons. But that’s not me, is it? I don’t have any incredible background story. I feel like I’m just a regular teacher, but that right there is the point. I actually have some very valuable opinions on teaching, students, and what’s right for education. Believe it or not, people listen.

     

     

    Why Isn’t It Simple?

    your voice matters

    Like most people, I have self-esteem that I don’t like to see crushed. You have to be brave. You have to believe your voice as a teacher matters. And you have to be willing to stand up for yourself. If you can do those things, (and you probably already do them every day in some way) then you can be an education advocate. Put on those big kid undies and get ready to stand up for your beliefs!

    I’ve boiled it down to three things you need to do if you want to become an advocate for education — or for anything, really. How effective you are at getting heard is a matter of how much time, effort, and learning you put into your message. Basically, you have to: 1) know the facts, 2) connect, and 3) speak up. That’s it.

    Know the Facts

    know the factsRead up on the issues important to you. Know both sides of the argument so you aren’t surprised when someone plays the opposition. It depends on what you want to advocate for, but following local and state leaders on Twitter, as well as belonging to professional groups are good starting places. Follow the local, state, and national news. Find out who the education correspondent at your newspaper is. Follow sites that report on education news and stay in the know. You might be surprised at what is out there. Remember the difference between fact and opinion and ground your arguments in the former.

    know the facts about education issues

    Connect

    dream togetherMaking connections is key to getting your voice heard. You don't have to agree with your coworkers or the politics of the local lawmakers, but you can connect on something. My mom once told me to start every parent conference with a compliment about their child, so the parent can see that you care. People in general are the same way; compliment a recent ruling, news article, or interview. Make a personal connection (food and sports cover almost everyone you meet) before you get to the nitty-gritty. Once you get to the point of your conversation, remember to stay respectful and focus on those facts.

     

    connect at conferece connected educators

    Connect with other educators through your personal learning network, Twitter, education chats, local ed camps, and local and national organizations such as ASCD, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, National Science Teacher’s Association, or the International Literacy Association, to name just a few. Connect with local school board and policy makers by attending meetings and open forums. Introduce yourself there, and continue the connections following up with an email or a short note. Make a business card (an oddity for teachers, I know) and keep yourself "visible."

    Speak Up

    think twiceGet vocal on issues that are important to you. If you feel strongly about a local tax issue, figure out who is in charge and volunteer time to canvas the area. Do you wish state lawmakers were talking to teachers in your area? Email them. Write them. Set up visits with them. Invite them to your school. Figure out who is on the education committee and make a point to contact each one in a positive way. Become an expert in social media. Schedule tweets and posts or write a blog. Remember to present facts and stay respectful. If you throw your local admins under the bus, they are likely to do the same to you. Posting statistics gets your pointi across more effectively than posting opinions.

    tweet education issues

    The point is, I realized that not only do I have a lot of opinions, I have a valuable voice. I teach children every day. I interact with parents throughout the community every day. The choices being made locally and nationally affect my kids Every Single Day. I need to speak up for my kids, my school, my community, myself, and my profession. If we don’t, who will?

     

    What ways are you able to affect change? Where do you struggle?

    twitter @bamameghan rss Meghan Everette

     

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