I’m good at certain things. I feel comfortable with technology and teaching others, I can make a mean salted caramel cupcake, but when I hear the word policy or advocacy my first thought is “I can’t do that, I don’t understand or it doesn’t matter what I do. I’m only one person.”
A lot of times it can feel like we have no control over what is happening around us. I have been asked in the past to write letters to legislators or call their offices. If I find time I might do this, but deep down somewhere I always felt like it wasn’t going to make a difference. My little letter or my phone call didn’t seem that important.
Being a former classroom teacher, I would see cuts in school funding or policies that I felt were not in the best interest of my students, but I didn’t take action simply because I thought it would be pointless. I wasn’t even aware of all the policies and legislation being enacted, simply because I was so busy.
Teaching doesn’t always allow time for light bill reading.
In my current role as Professional Learning Services Manager with Michigan Virtual, I’m working with teachers who are facing overwhelming challenges in their classrooms. After years of watching the budgets slashed for services that are crucial to well-being of our children, I became angry enough to do something about it.
Last year I had the opportunity to take part in The Educational Policy Fellowship Program offered through Michigan State University. I participated in this program because I wanted to learn more about advocacy and how I could support educators and students.
When I first started this program I was skeptical, unsure if my questions were “dumb” or if everyone else in the room was a legislative genius. But actually what I found was that we all were there to learn more, not just from those in legislature and politics, but also from each other. This new professional learning community helped me to see that I wasn’t the only one who felt lost in this area. I walked away with a new outlook and realized that my voice is just as important as anyone else’s.
So, how do you keep up with all of the changes from your state legislature? How can you make your voice heard? Below are a few resources to get you started, small chunks of information that will help you learn more, without consuming all of your time.
• MACUL Advocacy Blog: https://community.macul.org/category/advocacy
• ISTE Advocacy Network: http://www.iste.org/advocacy
• Follow legislation using http://www.legislature.mi.gov/ sign up for the bills/committees/news items.
• Lansing Watchdog, a service of the Lansing State Journal: https://www.lansingstatejournal.com/news/watchdog/
• Countable gives you summaries on upcoming bills: https://www.countable.us/
Finally, this is what I want to share with all of you: Your voice is important, you know your students better than any state or federal representative, so share what you know! Ask questions and voice your opinions because, whether you know it or not, you have a voice people want to hear and you can make a difference.
Stacey Schuh (@stacey_edu): Stacey is a MACUL Board Member, instructor for the MAET program at Michigan State and works for Michigan Virtual University. Stacey supports blended learning initiatives and works directly with teachers and administrators to implement blended learning strategies. Stacey is also a former classroom teacher and holds a Master’s degree in Educational Technology and Education from Michigan State.