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Speak with Authority: Advice for Teachers during State Legislative Sessions

As legislative sessions kick off in many states, I always encourage teachers to leverage their experience to build relationships with policymakers. Influencing policy is not a drive-by event; it requires tons of persistence and diligence. But the stories of the countless students and their families you’ve loved and cared for throughout your career represent inarguable truths that have the power to impact policy decisions.

2014 Arizona Teacher of the Year Beth Maloney strongly believes that teacher voice in the public education dialogue is the best way to make change for the better for all students. Below, she’s shared some advice for educators looking to engage with policymakers in their states.

    • Before you meet with a legislator, do your homework. Begin to get an understanding of their priorities by reviewing their voting record and online presence. Think about what information they need to make informed decisions that you can provide as an expert classroom practitioner.
    • Since you truly are the specialist, never, ever say, “I am just a teacher.” Speak with authority, conviction, and confidence. But be wary of “teacher talk.” Unless your legislator happens to be a professional educator (and aren’t you lucky?), they will not know the language and acronyms of our profession.
    • Treat every opportunity as a chance to tell your story and your students’ stories. Remember to do what you do best – teach!  Teach your legislators what it is like to be a teacher and a student today.
    • Finally, be positive and avoid negativity. Project good values since you are representing our students and our profession.  Focus on solutions to problems, not just the problems themselves.

 

Remember that it is our professional responsibility to advocate for our students and our profession. Make every window of opportunity to engage with policymakers count!

You can read more about Beth’s experience with legislators in the classroom here.

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Beth Maloney is a National Board Certified elementary school teacher and 2014 Arizona Teacher of the Year.

Katrina Boone is Director of Educators for High Standards.