HOW TO GET STARTED
The work of being an Everyday Advocate is situational: each of us enters into advocacy in different ways depending on our context and our experiences with speaking up and out.
Whatever your experience, this site can help. We suggest you start with a dive into our Guiding Principles for advocacy. Then Learn how to build a foundation for doing this work by identifying the burning issue that keeps you up at night. Next, Prepare to change what others think about that issue, culminating in an action plan. Finally, Act by mapping a specific path toward long-lasting change.
Regardless of the situation, storytelling is central to how we learn, prepare, and act as Everyday Advocates. Take some time now for a quick immersion into the connection between storytelling and advocacy.
Storytelling is how we interact with each other about values; how we share experiences with each other, counsel each other, comfort each other, and inspire each other to action. — Marshall Ganz
The work of Marshall Ganz is particularly appealing to those of us who teach English / Language Arts. Here’s why: Ganz focuses on the idea of a public narrative as the means by which an issue comes to be understood in a community, a narrative that draws upon the story elements we know so well: plot, characters, setting, and morals.
For Ganz, this public narrative is complex, though. It is much more than the telling of an individual story, a trope teachers (and others) too often rely on to help the public understand the story of education (i.e., the story of Teacher X who overcame great obstacles to reach these difficult children or the story of Teacher Y whose classroom practices shows us the “true” story of urban education). Ganz’s public narrative has three parts: the story of self, the story of us, and the story of now.
Story of SelfGanz believes in our individual stories but sees them as where we begin—not where we end. The story of self—our own story of teaching and learning—helps us begin to identify the values that inform our understanding. And for Ganz, understanding the values that underlie our story is what’s truly important.
Story of UsGanz’s next step is for us to talk to other like-minded people about all of our stories of self. As we talk and share our individual stories, he suggests, we can then identify the values we hold in common, the ideas that cross these idiosyncratic stories. The story of us becomes more powerful than an individual story as it places our unique anecdotes in a larger context, helping us claim, for example, that the stories of teachers everywhere have commonality, inherent values, and meaning and purpose.
Story of NowThis is the action step, where our stories lead us in order to move forward and make change. The story of now asks us to think about what we do with our collective knowledge, and how this knowledge can help us to change the current narrative into one that is truly public. The story of now relies on the expertise that exists in both individual and collective stories and puts the onus for change not on a heroic individual but on the collective efforts of an entire community.
This transition from individual story to public narratives gives us a way to see that individual anecdotes—while necessary to us as teachers—are not enough. The power of story is that it helps us recognize and articulate the values we share as a community of teachers. That identification is the first step in making change.
If you are new to Everyday Advocacy
Stories are an important starting point for Everyday Advocacy. The stories that people tell about teachers and teaching (often created through media depictions of schools and through conversations with family and friends) create one narrative about education — a narrative that too often excludes the voices of teachers. But every teacher has a story to tell — and these stories are vital to help change that narrative to one that truly reflects the reality of schools.
How can your own stories of school turn into activism? If you are new to Everyday Advocacy, try writing in response to the following prompts, adapted from the work of Marshall Ganz.
If you are familiar with Everyday Advocacy
If you’ve done some advocacy already, you probably are familiar with the idea of the public narrative and its power to influence how individuals see a particular issue. You probably also are aware that many activists believe change begins when we shift the public narrative to reflect different ways of thinking. This work begins in stories: how the stories of individuals can be thoughtfully communicated to change people’s minds.
As teachers who have some experience in advocacy, think about how your own stories of school might be shared with local communities in order to help shift the story of education. Try these prompts, adapted from the work of Marshall Ganz.