In the current educational landscape, it’s easy to get overwhelmed! Because we see so much need for change in so many areas, we can find ourselves distracted by the most current and immediate problem–so much so that it’s hard to stay on point. So,what can we do to keep ourselves focused and on point?
Step One. Find Your Issue
One way to find your issue is to think about these questions:
- What do you most wish others understood about literacy? About literacy pedagogy? Why do you think they don’t understand it?
- What gets in the way of teaching literacy in the ways you want to teach? What supports successful ways of teaching literacy?
- What have your students shown you about literacy and literacy learning that you wish others understood?
- If you could recreate how literacy is taught in your school, what would you focus on?
- Who are you as a teacher? What are your values? How did you come to believe in those values?
Step Two. Narrow Your Issue
The next step is to narrow your issue. We’ve found these two approaches to be really helpful in the narrowing process.
Elevator speeches: Try turning your issue into a short statement that encapsulates the essence of your advocacy work. Think about this as an elevator speech: a 30-60 second articulated talk about your issue.
Teachers we’ve worked with have then practiced the speeches on each other, either using stopwatches to keep within the time frame or sometimes even riding up and down on the elevators in a building to get the timing right!
Sample Elevator Speeches:
Middle level students have a developmental need to feel like they belong. Why do we scatter them in disjointed classes? Our students deserve to have teachers who collaborate to best meet their needs. It is imperative that we put students first and make team teaching a reality this year. – Jeffrey Taylor
Our children are being overwhelmed by tests. Their personal growth, mental diligence, and creativity are not being reflected in their test scores. This leads parents, administrators, and policy makers to believe that our schools are failing, but in reality, we are failing our students. Our children will be the leaders and representatives of our country. Instead of struggling to raise good test takers, it is our responsibility to raise good citizens. – Barbara McKinnon
Another exercise in narrowing is creating a bumper sticker or a meme–not as something to use as a campaign tactic yet (more on this later), but as a creative way means to determine and keep your focus.
Here are a bumper sticker and a meme created by teachers in a summer workshop.
Hiam’s concern was bilingual education and as she moved from general concern to specific issue, she created this bumper sticker as a reminder to think about bilingual students in terms of assets rather than problems.
As a teacher in an alternative high school, Kristin was concerned about the perceptions surrounding alternative schooling, that they were places of failure. Her issue began to crystalize around how to change that perception, to see her alternative school as an asset.
Note: While creating a meme or a bumper sticker is cathartic and kind of fun, we see them mostly as a way of focusing and narrowing your issue. Returning to these when your mind starts to stray to the next big issue helps you stay on track with your advocacy work.
Read about what others have done to stay on point on the Everyday Advocacy in Action Blog.
Read More: Think Long Term / Celebrate Short Term