Advocacy is a way educators can initiate a dialogue with policymakers about important educational issues. We often hear educators say, “While I care deeply about education issues, I don’t have anything important to share with policymakers and I don’t know how to advocate.” CSTP begs to differ and we want to dispel that statement!
Educators DO have important things to share with policymakers. Personal stories, experiences and perspectives all have an important place in effectively advocating a message.
Advocacy requires a set of skills that come naturally to some people and may come more uncomfortably to others. Regardless, like any other skill, learning to advocate takes time, preparation and practice—and it is possible!
Here are a few examples of advocacy by Washington educators:
- Kelly Cannard teaches middle school science in Vancouver. She proposed changes to the draft proposal of the Basic Education Finance Task Force, testified to the reasons for those changes—and saw them written into the final report.
- John Hellwich is a professional development coordinator in White River. Since receiving training, John has testified before both the House and Senate Education committees on issues related to teaching quality and certification.
- Megan Conklin, an instructional coach in North Thurston, met individually with legislators during the session to discuss the importance of supporting beginning teachers.
CSTP assists educators in building their advocacy skills and provides opportunities for them to put those skills to use with policymakers.
- Advocacy Training: CSTP provides several one-day trainings throughout the school year, as well as a three-day intensive training in the summer.
- Write to Advocate: Effective Strategies for Communication with Decision Makers was a two-day workshop designed to increase teacher's knowledge and skills in communicating written messages that attract the attention of decision makers and other audiences about education issues important to them. Fourteen teachers spent the time developing written drafts of messages in the form of letters, blogs and editorials about issues they felt passionate about including teacher preparation, special education and working with high-need students. Writing experts provided constructive feedback to participants on ways they could strengthen their written messages.
- Participants said these following comments about the training:
- 'Highlights of the training including learning a basic framework for structuring a message to any audience; mentoring from established, professional writers in the field, the opportunity to collaborate with other educators in person and on the wiki you set up, and the study of other written advocacy messages such as published essays, electronic journalism, blogs and video media.'
- '[CSTP] was attentive to the individual needs of attendees, ensured we had the tools necessary for our work, treated us to excellent meals, and created a warm and engaging atmosphere.'
- 'I look forward to sharing what I learned with others and promoting this training to others as one of the top five trainings I have attended in eighteen years of working in education.'
- Legislative Visits: CSTP coordinates educators’ visits with their local elected officials and policymakers' visits to classrooms.
- Resources: CSTP has several easy-to-use “how-to” guides to assist educators in advocating for causes about which they care deeply.