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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Educator Advocacy Matters

For many years I've been advocating for better in schools.

Many years ago after reading and researching about STEAM and witnessing some amazing STEAM efforts by colleagues in my school system and beyond,  I advocated for greater STEAM teaching efforts. I spoke to an administrator who told me that STEAM was nothing new. I countered with the question, "Then why aren't we doing it?" The same administrator responded to my advocacy with the comment that I couldn't be the "tail that wags the dog." As you can imagine it was a disconcerting discussion. Since that time, however, the same administrator has embraced STEAM efforts and teaching by working with his chosen colleagues to forward the effort. I was not directly included in the efforts, but the efforts have taken off and are mostly positive.

Now I am advocating for greater choice, voice, leadership, and respect for educators. In too many situations, I notice that educators have little voice and choice with regard to professional decisions, efforts, and direction. This results in an oppressive atmosphere where many educators experience lack of voice, choice, and respect--essentially an environment that demeans rather than empowers.

Rather than point fingers or insinuate that some are not doing their jobs or consulting the research, I want to advocate in ways that are positive, respectful, and transformative.

How can I encourage systems to change in ways that empower educators who in turn then empower students--what kind of advocacy is needed here?

First, I will speak to leadership about the potential that teacher voice, choice, and respect hold for better systems of teaching and learning. I'll note where such respect, voice and choice occur, and where it does not occur. I'll suggest possible changes such as more timely and inclusive communication patterns, teacher-driven modern professional development, better curriculum development patterns, and system structural changes that empower all stakeholders and create more time-on-task with students from all educators.

Next, I'll work with the local, state, and national unions to elevate teacher voice, choice and respect. Locally, I'll work with the union board and members to make sure that our contract is followed with respect and attention to detail. Just last year, there were areas of contractual agreements that were challenged and on the verge of breaking. This kind of union busting is not legal or respectful. We have a good contract, and I'll work to make sure it is followed, and I'll also work with the board and members to begin improving that contract too to give educators the voice, choice, environments, schedule, and supports they need to teach children well.

Further, I'll focus in on my own work in the classroom to make sure that I'm "walking the walk" as well as "talking the talk" that leads to good teaching and learning for every child. I know that good teaching takes dedicated energy, time, research, and effort--it's positive, challenging, and sometimes tiring work that demands the best of us in order to teach well. Fortunately I really enjoy the work I do and want to continually improve what I'm able to do for students.

Similar to my STEAM advocacy, I expect that greater teacher voice, choice, and respect will occur. Dissimilar to my early advocacy, I want to remain a part of this change--I don't want to be left out of this exciting revolution.

As an educator, what are you advocating for right now? How are you advocating, and why does this matter? Are you connecting to your local, state, and national union with regard to your advocacy? I will be thinking more about this during the research and reading days of summer.