Editor’s Note: We asked retired educator Claudia Swisher to help us understand why it is so important for educators to advocate, and to help us convince those of you who are frightened to speak out or put off by politics that we must speak up for our students and our profession. Here is what she shared.
Why advocate? You might ask well as why breathe. We are teachers, natural advocates. We advocate for our subject areas with the passion we’ve brought to the profession. We advocate for our students to frustrated parents and administration, and sometimes advocate for parents to their children. We advocate for each other, for our school and district. Every time we go to the store, we represent our school and district in the community.
But the step from advocating for our subject and students and school to advocating for policies is a big one…and for most of us, a scary one. Taking our voices to the State Capitol, or to the Oklahoma State Department of Education requires a leap of faith, and the certainty that it’s the right thing to do.
Teaching is challenging. We conserve our time and energy. I remember telling my own children when I got home that I’d used up all my energy on other people’s children. Some of us, in self-defense, have withdrawn from education politics and declare ourselves to be non-political.
Teaching is a political decision. We have chosen to believe in the future, and to prepare students for that future. We have chosen to stand up for the vulnerable and the voiceless. We spend our days with students we love, sharing our passion for learning. We have committed ourselves to young people. That is a political decision.
We have many skills to bring to an expanded role in advocacy. We have knowledge of what goes on inside classrooms, what learning really looks like, what school reform has taken from our schools. We have voices that are articulate and persuasive. We can talk a kindergartener out of a tree, and a high school student into finishing an assignment. We are encouragers and listeners. We know the power of building a relationship with others. We can make anyone our best friend and compatriot.
I’m a National Board Certified Teacher and am thrilled that NBPTS now includes a Standard for English teachers for Advocacy. It gives us not only permission, but the charge to use our teachers’ voices for our students and for our profession.
It’s important to think about and craft your story to share…why you became a teacher, what keeps you in the classroom, what your dreams are for your students, what challenges your students face, how our profession has changed because of reforms. You can make others see your students, hear their voices. You can speak for their parents who feel so disenfranchised. We can put faces on policies for our legislative leaders. We can help them see what a mandate looks like in your classroom.
You owe this advocacy to your students, and to your profession.
Why advocate? To preserve your profession and public education.
Claudia Swisher, NBCT
Watch the vidoes in the playlist below, and find additional information in the pages linked underneath the videos.
Click the links below to learn how you can advocate for the public education of your families and your students.