The Deep End: Advocacy – We should all be doing it

November 15, 2017

While at the Women in Education Institute sponsored by Corwin Press, I did a keynote about “playing in the deep end” and what it takes: cognitively, socially and psychologically. At this time, in our field, we are seemingly all stressed and we are feeling ‘under siege.’ We’re in the midst of a teacher shortage, and many of us feel confused, overwhelmed and disheartened. We need skills and strategies around finding our voice, our inner voice of resilience and our outer voice of advocacy.

After my keynote, I had the opportunity to attend a session run by Katherine Bassett and Peggy Stewart from National State Teachers of the Year organization. They shared with the participants a set of teacher leaders standards that, along with many others from organizations, universities, and districts, they were privileged to craft and promote. It was especially timely to sit in the session after seeing the research that the New Teacher Center had just put out on how teacher leadership is tied to increased student achievement.

The last of the teacher leader standards is about advocacy. How can we both advocate for our students and the profession? Many of us need training on how to do so effectively, in front of school boards, parents, and government officials. I certainly need to ‘find my voice’ in this specific way. NNSTOY has a free webinar, “Successful Meetings with Policy Makers” on its site that helps us do this advocacy effectively.

The surprising comment from NNSTOY was about the crafting of the standards and how, from the design team, there was significant debate around whether teacher leader standards should include a piece for teachers advocating, not just for their classrooms, but for the profession. Ultimately, it was put in, but it gave me pause.

It triggered me because of a previous experience I had with an administrator who told me I had no business in supporting administrators on having hard conversations because I wasn’t an administrator myself. It put me back on my heels for a minute. I shrunk in light of the comment for a bit. It stung. Who am I to share expertise with someone who currently holds a different position? So, in the same light, who are we as teachers to advocate for the profession? Should it just be district administrators or principals? You know my answer.

We all have a collective responsibility, regardless of our roles, to be advocates for education as a field. I cannot – we cannot – leave policy advocacy just to those at central offices. Teacher leaders have an expertise in their classrooms and need to express their views and advocate for our profession outside our schools and inside state houses.

Who are we to do so? We are the voices of teachers who first-hand see those students daily. We are the ones with direct contact with the parents, the children and the learning. To deny our voices based on position or title seems on the surface laughable and downright inept.

I am going to watch that webinar on advocacy and increase my skillset around finding my voice in a new arena. Join me. We will find our collective voice around advocating for our profession, no matter our roles, and do so together.

This post was originally published on the edCircuit blog where Jennifer is a featured columnist.

About Jennifer Abrams

Jennifer Abrams

Jennifer Abrams considers herself a "voice coach," helping others learn how to best use their voices – be it collaborating on a team, presenting in front of an audience, coaching a colleague and supervising an employee. Jennifer holds a Master's degree in Education from Stanford University and a Bachelor's degree in English from Tufts University. She lives in Palo Alto, California. Jennifer's publications include Having Hard Conversations, The Multigenerational Workplace: Communicating, Collaborating & Creating Community and Hard Conversations Unpacked – the Whos, the Whens and the What Ifs. She has also created a Corwin Press e-course by the same name.

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Praise for Jennifer

“I hope you are well. I approached you right after your morning session on hard conversations to thank you for the amazing workshop. I shared that I am tough to impress. Equally, important, I never smile. Nonetheless, your approach elicited a genuine excitement and passion for the work.”

John Wilson, Curriculum Director
Atlanta Jewish Academy, Atlanta, GA