Thursday, April 25, 2013

Making My Voice Heard

Last week I was privileged to participate in NCTE's Literacy Education Advocacy Day, my first experience with Congressional lobbying.  After a briefing by legislative staffers representing the House Education and the Workforce Committee and Senator Patty Murray, we shared advice for legislative office visits and firmed up our understanding of the "asks."

While no one on Captiol Hill seems to be discussing education this year, we went forward with our "asks," just to keep some education buzz alive.  NCTE's government policy platform includes several key areas including teacher training, research, and literacy in higher education, but our most pressing lobbying efforts center around teacher collaboration and fair assessment policies.

Several Virginia colleagues and I teamed up to visit the offices of Representative Gerry Connolly and  Senator Mark Warner.  We met with reps who were happy to listen to our requests and take our information.  Marvin Figueroa, Warner's legislative aide, was particularly interested in how Senator Warner could help us in our request for more teacher collaboration.  While our meeting happened in the hallway of the Russell Building, it felt important; it felt like someone was listening. 

At the end of the afternoon, about 25 of us gathered in the Cannon building to debrief on our legislative office visits.  It felt wonderful to be surrounded by people like Kent Williamson, NCTE Executive Director; Sandy Hayes, NCTE President; Jocelyn Chadwick, NCTE Secondary Section Chair, and so many other NCTE leaders.  The few of us in the room who were representing NCTE as teachers felt empowered and included. 

It was an exhausting day but well worth the short 18-mile trip down the road.  Now I'm ready to insist that all of our high school government classes require students to identify and research policies of personal interest, identify appropriate legislators, plan a pitch, schedule an appointment, and deliver the pitch to the legislator or legislative assistant.  18 miles from the Capitol and we haven't Incorporated this into our government curriculum?  That would make school real and allow kids to pursue their passions.

To learn more about NCTE's positions, visit this site to read about the LEARN Act (The Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation Act), this site to read about machine-scored writing assessments, or this site to read the government policy platform.

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