As a follow-up to my previous post about my experience at the policy table, I wanted to share some insights about my road to Washington—and hopefully help more teachers begin to consider what their own journeys might look like as teacher advocates.
Here are a few steps that I urge teachers to consider:
- Set professional goals. Teachers can earn credibility as professionals by achieving professional distinctions that naturally lend themselves to advocacy. I knew that after I finished my master’s degree, I wanted to challenge myself to tackle National Board certification. Even though my initial motivation was rooted in improving my instructional practices, I am astounded to this day by how many opportunities I have had because of achieving that goal.
- Join a network—and participate! There are many opportunities for teachers to connect online, and many times these connections can lead to participation in discussions at the national level. I was able to attend the meeting in Washington, for example, because of my involvement with the Center for Teaching Quality’s Implementing Common Core Standards Team. Being involved in this network of teacher leaders is what spurred my interest to be an advocate for teachers, and the connections I have in that group continue to provide me with support and encouragement. Twitter chats, Google hangouts, and webinars are all easy ways to connect with both teachers and stakeholders, as well as help teachers find their voices. Participation in local unions and content-focused professional organizations, such as the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, also provides avenues toward policy work.
- Start showing up. One of my colleagues has a poster in his classroom that reads, “Decisions are made by those who show up.” Making an effort to be physically present at local and state events such as school board meetings (which are open to the public) is a great way to form relationships with stakeholders. As I mentioned in my first post, I think it’s critical that policy makers hear from actual teachers, and this is only going to happen if teachers make an effort to be present. As Jennifer Martin wrote in her post, “when relationships are developed with political leaders, trust can be established and there is a willingness on the part of those who govern to listen to those of us who are experts in our field.”
Alison Crowley is a National Board-certified teacher in Lexington, Ky., where she teaches Algebra 2 and AP Calculus.
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