We work with the most vulnerable population in our society: children.
Children, more 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 well-being.
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 Legislators
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.