In the last few weeks, we have been witness to too many educators having to stand in the face of danger to protect their students. Recent events show once again the deep passion within educators. So, how does my reflection of recent events connect with a blog post on advocacy?
Certainly, I will not use this space to discuss gun violence in schools. Rather, I am struck by the notion that all teachers that I have spoken to recently about the tragedies in Connecticut and California have said in an instant that they would give their lives for their students. But, when asked if they would advocate to politicians about any issue, most would not.
I am amazed by that reality – we will courageously give our lives for our students, but we are fearful to speak out. What a powerful statement, in my opinion, about our profession – the honor to give one’s life in service and the humility to serve in silence. Frankly, I feel we must change this dichotomy. I feel it is long past time for educators to share our stories.
I admit I was one of those who felt my time was better spent focused on my students, my colleagues, my building and my district, instead of my politicians. But over time, I grew frustrated that my legislators were making changes that negatively impacted my school, my peers, and – most importantly – my students. I felt upset, frustrated, and powerless.
Upset? Frustrated? Powerless? I wasn’t then, and I am not now. I have a voice and a story to share. We may think our stories are not worthy of the politicians, yet we share them with our students. We use what we know and have experiences to help them grow. More so, we have the stories of our students that we can, and should, tell. Those stories need to be told, need to be heard, and need to be understood.
And the process is easy. Simply write a letter or even an email to your legislators, or to other legislators that you can impact, and share your story. Tell what you believe, what you observe, and what students need. A legislator once told me that with the multitude of issues that they address in a legislative session, two or three pieces of communication are typical for any issue. If they get 5-10 pieces, it is considered a major issue that they need to consider.
Just imagine right now that as you greet your colleagues in the hallway each day, if five of you wrote an email or letter, you would be making a meaningful impact on our legislators. Or as you debate topics in the faculty lounge, if you stopped and emailed from your smartphones or tablet devices, you could sway a decision. Your PLC or PLN could improve the lives of your students – and the lives of thousands more.
Every one of us has the power to lift up our voice, add it to the chorus of others, and deliver a powerful message to the Legislature, the Governor’s Office and the public at large. I hope that you will recognize your ability to lead, and use it in another way to help your students. We are a profession dedicated to help others learn. It is time to help educate those making decisions about education.