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Monday, January 15, 2018

Good Advocacy: Patience, Process, and Time

Educators must be models of what education is. We must, as MLK advocated for, think intensively and critically, then advocate with good character for positive development and change in schools--the kind of development and change that brings equity, opportunity, success, and love to all of our students. 
Good advocacy doesn't have the narrow focus of "I want it, and I want it now!" That can be the way you feel inside, but successful advocates know that good advocacy is better than this.

The Idea for Change Emerges
Good advocacy begins with good analysis. You look around, and you don't like what you see or experience. You notice that there's potential for positive change. The next step is to deeply analyze the situation. Why isn't change happening? What's holding good change back? What data, stats, and stories will promote good advocacy? What is your vision for change and why is that vision better than what's happening now?

Share the idea with facts, data, and stories
Once you fully understand the issue, you begin to tell your story, share the data, and advocate. It's not "my way or the highway" advocacy, but instead advocacy that involves sharing the stories, data, and new ideas. As you share, you listen too. What do others have to add? How are their experiences and thoughts changing your vision and deepening your advocacy?

Work with Others to Effect Change
Advocacy on your own typically goes nowhere. Good advocacy profits from creating and working with teams to form a collective voice and agenda. In schools that might mean working with your grade-level team, school-wide colleagues, faculty senate, parent group, or union to forward new ideas. As with recent successful advocacy, find out the truth of people's ideas and experiences and use that data to forward the advocacy in personal, respectful, and targeted ways.

Strategy and Persistence
Keep the story alive, persist, and refine as you learn and experience more. Don't be afraid of compromise and look for win-win solutions. Always keep the mission and good work of your advocacy up front, and fight any urge to let ego or personal benefit triumph. Good advocacy brings forth good ideas for the community, not good ideas that benefit only one person's ambition or ego. I always like to say, "When ambition feeds mission it's okay, but if ambition trumps mission, then you've got a problem."

As Timothy Snyder suggests in his book, On Tyranny, it's important to support a few good organizations and institutions as you work towards maintaining and developing a strong and positive democracy. For educators, their local, state, and national unions are good institutions to support--institutions committed to a positive education for every child, and institutions which provide educators with a collective path for advocacy and good work.

As I continue to teach, I am advocating for the following positive changes in schools and government:
  • Greater distributive leadership structure, schedules, and efforts in schools to elevate the voice and choice of all stakeholders (often called flattened hierarchy.
  • Greater teacher leadership in schools--more teacher voice and choice.
  • Elevated process and analysis for good decision making, evolution of practice/systems, and prioritization. Too often it's outdated, narrow, and exclusive process that hinders positive development. 
  • Greater transparency, truth, and inclusion in all efforts of government and schools.
  • Fair taxation and adequate funding for all public needs including healthy food, optimal health care, education, clean lands, air, and water, modernization, and the arts.
  • Equity and respect for all people
To advocate well requires a good amount of patience. Change takes time, yet too much patience may lead to passivity so you want to strike the right balance here. Advocacy requires time too. It's important to make time to be active in ways that advocate for better--we can stay satisfied with less when more will elevate our lives and institutions. Good process matters too, and it's best to work with others to uplift the processes we use to advocate for and elevate ideas and practice that lead to betterment.

How can we elevate justice for all stakeholders in schools, particularly equity and justice for all of our students. What can we do better?