Let me first be clear…there is no political agenda here on one side of common core, class sizes, the inadequacy of pay. What is present is a call to action for teachers. I have read blog post, after blog post, facebook post after facebook post about what is wrong with education, how to fix it, who to keep, what to do, who to fire, etc. What I have a hard time identifying is the voice of the teacher. Many are written by teachers, many others by “experts” and the majority by those who intend to harm public education for various political agendas.
Keep in mind a few simple things that you can do to be heard:
1. Register to vote! …and vote!
When working in political action (and let’s face it, most of this is all political), it is important that your name be on voter registration lists. Many representatives and senators will have staff cross-check lists to be sure that you are a more powerful voice. They can also see your voting record. Staying active in large and small elections sends a message that you are voice that might be important to have on the side of the incumbent. This is probably the most important step to being politically active. When combined with the others on this list, you are unstoppable!
The plus side? Most states use voter registration lists to randomly select jurors for jury duty…you could get lucky and get called during that time between spring break and the end of school when the kids are off their rockers and you need a few days break! (This is tongue in cheek.)
2. Know your legislators (federal, state, county, city/town, and school board)
Who’s got time to figure this out? They change all the time, too. Especially in Illinois where all the elected officials go to jail during some part of their term. (I wish this was less tongue in cheek than my previous comment.) You can type your address into the following site and have up-to-the-minute results: http://votesmart.org/
3. Write, email and call on important issues.
Here is the hard part…you don’t have time for all of this. I know, me neither. Make sure that with hot button issues that get you all worked up about your job, your passion, your calling; you make sure that your elected officials know your thoughts. You are the expert in your field. You invested your money (or your parents…or the governments that you will pay back over the rest of your life—I digress) to become the expert. Just because somebody was a student in elementary school does not make them the expert. Remind them of that fact! Let them know the research about your issues and why you feel strongly the way you do. It is so important that elected officials hear from us, since they are the ones that are making the decisions that affect us and our students.
4. Support your local political action committees.
Here is where you will recover some of your precious time. Most of these committees are built into your local teachers organizations (NEA or AFT) and have already crafted wonderful letters and emails that you can send directly through their sites. Make sure you know these links and that your colleagues know the links. Make sure to participate in their drives to show the size of your organization and why you support the initiative.
If your local organization doesn’t have a grassroots effort, start one. All this has to be is a small group of educators who notify the rest of the local members when theses initiatives are taking place and how to participate. I, personally, was the Grassroots Political Activist for my Region council in Illinois through the Illinois Education Association. I learned so much about the politics, it was both frightening and rewarding. Sometimes all you need are numbers for votes to change…make all your voices heard. Elected officials can’t hear the griping in the teacher’s lounge, but they can see 300 emails hit their inbox on one day!
5. Share your thoughts via social media, blogs, or public events.
Don’t be shy about sharing your thoughts in a professional manner with those that are not educators. Some people have misconceptions that need correcting. Others need more information to make the right decision. Let this be your platform! This is where we all get stronger with the general public. We can’t share it during parent conferences, or school sponsored events, but we sure can exercise our freedom of speech in our personal lives. I will share this blog and some of my family that will disagree will surely post their dissension in the comments. I can’t please everybody, but I can give them enough rope to…well you get the idea!
6. Educate outside the classroom.
When a professional discussion comes up about education, participate. Don’t engage with fools, but don’t shy away from opening up and sharing your thoughts. You are an educator and you have skills for discourse that you can use in this arena…even if politics are not your thing. How will things ever change if we don’t speak up!
Please share your thoughts and opinions in the comments section of this page so we can all participate in this dialogue.