How do we move from preparing into taking action? Creating an action plan was a first step, and now we need to put our strategies and tactics in motion. As we engage in Everyday Advocacy, we can learn a great deal from experienced community organizers. Groups such as the Midwest Academy, Beautiful Trouble, and other organizing groups can provide models for how to engage stakeholders in meaningful ways.
Taking action means moving from the casual “I wish I could change how x is done in my school” to enacting a specific path to create change. As you engage in Everyday Advocacy, let your Action Plan and your collaborative partners inform your choices and keep you focused on your goal. And just as you might adjust instructional decisions in response to student interests and reactions, you may find it useful to adjust your advocacy tactics as you observe the interests and reactions of your audience.
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> 1. Stay Focused
In the current educational landscape, it can be easy to get overwhelmed! When we see a need for change in 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? Keep returning to your action plan, which can serve as a guide and resource to help you keep focused on your goals.
Try it out: What is your focus for advocacy?
> 2. Sow the Seeds of Change
Educational advocacy begins when we start to educate others about educational issues or–in Ganz’s terms–when we work to change the public narrative. We can think of early advocacy efforts as “sowing the seeds of change.” This proactive work involves reaching out to others around us–colleagues, administrators, parents, community members–to explore their ideas and share our vision of what literacy education can look like. This relational work can involve sharing something exciting that a student has achieved, demonstrating a classroom practice, or asking about their own literacy practices.
This kind of proactive work is often interactive in nature, as we seek to further understand our community’s interests and priorities, and as we seek to model and illustrate the values that underlie what we’re doing in literacy education. When we can help others see the potential of authentic literacy instruction and learning, we can lay the groundwork for different ways of thinking about school and literacy.
> Click Here For: What Can This Look Like in Practice? Examples of Sowing the Seeds with Parents:
Sarah Andrew Vaughan invited the parents of her ninth graders to a special evening in which they began by writing and then talking about their own memorable experiences as writers (both in and out of school). This event led to a discussion about important understandings about writing, such as writing processes, genre and audience considerations, and the role of feedback. Parents tried out one of the writing invitations that their students had done in class that same day, as a way to encourage discussion between the parents and their teens. Through this evening event, Sarah achieved several important goals: helping parents discover something about research-based practices in literacy education, opening up discussion with parents about literacy practices, and demonstrating the way she teaches.
lisa eddy often videotapes her classroom in action, posts the clips to a class youtube channel, and asks her students (for extra credit) to watch the clips with their parents and send her feedback. Like Sarah, she is able to represent to parents how she teaches reading and writing and invite them into a conversation about literacy practices. Parents get to experience, through video, what a workshop, project-based classroom looks like; they get to see the enthusiasm on the faces of their children as they engage in their work.
The Teachers, Profs, Parents: Writers Who Care blog turns research-based understandings of writing and writing instruction into conversational introductions to topics like revision and grammar and test writing. Summarizing research and showing what it looks like in practice can help parent readers gain a new sense of how writing can be taught.
> Click Here For: What Can This Look Like in Practice? Examples of Sowing the Seeds with Colleagues
David Kangas and Kevin English began a book club with teachers (and administrators) in their school on a professional text about reading and reading pedagogy. They chose a text that presented a different viewpoint from the general talk at their school. By setting up the reading group as a conversation, teachers together discovered some new ways of thinking about their teaching.
Kristin Smith’s students created book posters after doing independent reading during class, and she posted their work in the hallway. These posters allowed other teachers, administrators, students, and community members to see what the students in her alternative school are reading, which also helped refocus attention on her students’ strengths and interests (rather than deficits). Posters also invited observers (including other students) to talk about the books.
> Click Here For: What Can This Look Like in Practice? Examples of Sowing the Seeds in the Community
Cheryl Plouffe and her colleagues created a day-long community “Sustainability Summit” in which students shared their learning about science and sustainability with parents, community members, and elected leaders (including the mayor, township supervisors, and representatives of various offices around the city and county). Students asked the panel members questions about the sustainability of their community, and the event concluded with a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the rain garden that science students built around the school’s retaining pond.
The Centre Teacher-Writers meets monthly for writing, fellowship, feedback, and support for publication. One project has been a monthly education column in the local newspaper. Fed up with the paper’s habit of running nationally syndicated op-eds on education, usually reflecting one ideological stance only and without local counterpoint or local perspective, the CTW approached the paper’s editor and offered to supply its own op-eds as well. Teacher-writers take turns writing columns, with topics ranging from advising parents about helping with homework, to arguing against excessive testing, to explaining and condemning value-added measures of teaching performance, to giving a teacher’s perspective on conceptual math instruction.
Many teachers use social media to inform friends outside of their school communities about wonderful things their students or other students around the country are doing, often reposting or retweeting important messages about literacy education. Think about people you know and how reading a blog post, an in-depth article about education, or even a tweet about a recent research study might help them think a little differently about teachers and teaching.
Try it out: How might you sow the seeds of change with colleagues, parents, administrators, and the community?
> 3. Set Up Your Journey As A Win-Win Situation
We have choices when we do this work, and we have the power to determine what constitutes success. Each time we succeed in a goal, we gain confidence to move on to the next one. Take the time to determine short term and long term goals and to celebrate each success that occurs along the way.
> Click Here For: What Can This Look Like in Practice? Examples of Thinking Long Term and Celebrating Short Term
Kris Gedeon set a long-term goal of changing how reading is viewed in her school and school community, creating a buzz about books and encouraging life-long readers.
Barbara McKinnon’s long-term goal is to shift the conversation in her elementary school from an overwhelming focus on test scores to a consideration of how to help students become better citizens who exhibit traits like persistence, responsibility, flexibility, curiosity, openness, engagement, and creativity.
Cheryl Plouffe‘s long-term goal is to change minds about the community and its assets and the role of community members in helping teens rethink their potential and future.
Try it out: What’s your long term goal? What short term goals will help you get there?
> 4. Keep Learning and Adjusting
Advocacy is an ongoing, recursive process. As you engage in this work, we recommend that you keep referencing and adjusting your Action Plan. Commit yourself to continually learning, exploring new developments and conversations that relate to your topic. Seek to expand your collaborators, even including people who may see issues differently than you and who may be able to inform and expand your thinking in provocative ways. And keep developing and adapting your tactics, especially as you learn more about your audience and stakeholders’ values. Explore what other advocates are doing, and share these strategies with your partners.
Try it out: What can you do to keep learning more about your issue?