We work with the
most vulnerable population in our society: children.
specifically children in poverty, rarely have access to power. They are subject
to the rules and regulations created by people who often know little about
them, resulting in practices that are, in fact, detrimental to their
As teachers, we must
be their advocates. We need to utilize our expertise regarding what is best for
teaching and learning to insist on the best outcomes for our students. In our
current political climate, we may feel like we have very little voice, but my goal
today is to equip you with some resources to get started.
Get to Know Your
State legislators have
the most impact on shaping education policy, which directly impacts you and
your students. I encourage you to get to know and contact both the legislators
that represent your home and your school. Send them an email or call their
offices to let them know what you think. Invite them to your classroom. I did!
Three of them responded, and even though our conversations were less than
encouraging, it was a start. To find your legislators and access their contact
information, visit the Indiana General Assembly website. You can also use Facebook’s new feature
called Town Hall to look up your federal, state and local representatives. Remember
to use your personal email address and your personal device.
Know What’s Being Discussed
at the State Level
Even though the
current legislative session is expected to close soon, you should know what
education policy is being discussed at the Statehouse. There are several ways
to do this. You can access the entire education legislative agenda via the Indiana General Assembly website. You can see which policies were
authored by Rep. Bob Behning, chairman of the House Education Committee. You
can also review the proposed bills for both the House and Senate Education Committees
here and here. Another great resource is the Indiana State Teachers Association website,
which provides weekly legislative updates. The site’s blog
page may be easier to
follow. While finding and distilling this information can be a little time
consuming and difficult to understand at times, the information and knowledge
you’ll gain is beneficial.
Be Active in Your Community
There are many ways
to be active in your local communities — attend a lecture at the Indianapolis
Public Library, join a
rally, or for more frequent updates, sign up to receive the IPS newsletter (The Achiever) or follow Chalkbeat and other local organizations that report
on education issues. You can also get together with friends to take action. I
recently learned about a group started by one of our community partners at Center
for Inquiry (CFI) called the Fierce Four. These four women are hosting events to
make taking action easier. The group’s most recent event was Understanding Islam: An Informational Evening, held
to encourage “dialogue and create a better understanding in our community.” Through
that event, they raised $360 for Exodus Refugee Immigration.
Educators are often
made to feel unprofessional because consultants are hired to lead professional
development instead of relying on the collective knowledge of teachers, and curriculum
can be tightly controlled by those who work outside of classrooms. But it’s important
that teachers feel and act as empowered experts. No one knows the needs of your
students better than you do, so use that expertise to speak up for what is
right for education.