I love gardening. The first few years I had a garden at home I was reactive to the weeds. This resulted in endless hours during the summer pulling up weeds, accidentally getting veggies, etc… It was a nightmare. I then asked a farmer what they did about the weeds, they used a covering.Being proactive meant no more weeds no more weeding. It was great!
I see many parallels between learning to lay a covering in my garden and policy changes in education. Educators need to be more proactive. Our legislators (local, state and federal) are open to learning from us, their constituents. Our story and insights help them understand the consequences (intended and unintended) of decisions relating to education policy. Whether you are nervous about ESSA or requesting the GAP funding back, they need to hear from you during the formation process before they pass legislation; not after when you are reacting and mad about what happened. Together we need to lay the covering so we don’t end up picking out the weeds!
Here are a few examples 1, 2, 3 of officials providing support when given the opportunity. Most recently, after gathering data through focus groups + surveys, analyzing and compiling a presentation on the teacher preparation report I contributed to as a Hope Street Group National Fellow. I also had some topics specifically relating to where I live that I wanted to communicate. To set up meetings I:
-researched the most recent issues the legislators were working on .
-learned how to contact the legislators; some have emails sent to them others you need to submit a request through their webpage.
–crafted and sent a letter, citing the issues and their tie to our report, requesting a meeting for the date I had available, March 10th.
-used Boomerang extension in google chrome to continued to send the letters until someone responded.
I could go on and on for pages regarding my meetings in Washington DC. Here some helpful tips if you set up in person meetings:
-Get a map to orient yourself, ask people within the buildings if you need help. The custodial staff within most buildings helped me find my meetings. I should have brought a small treat for them and promise to the next time I go.
-Know your purpose by preparing for your meetings. What questions do you have of the people, what might they ask you. *I found it helpful to start by asking them about how they got in their position. I tied my points to the information they provided to me.
-Take notes on important topics. These may come in handy.
-Send a follow up email within 48 hours citing key points from #3. This will help dialogue continue.
As professional educators we need to be proactive when it comes to policies being set or we are going to be working in a nightmere. There is no time better than now to visit or communicate with your legislators via email. As the nitty gritty with ESSA gets ironed out let’s set the stage right from the start. Policy makers need to know what educators know to guide things appropriately for our country. Sharing knowledge will help us decrease the turmoil in our profession allowing us to grow and enjoy the fruits of our labor.