Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Reflection: Michigan Educator Voice Fellowship Policy Training Project

The project is the Michigan Educators Voice Fellowship.

The purpose of this project is to empower teachers and principals to elevate their voices in public conversations about learning. My call to action would be to encourage teachers to take leadership roles in order to influence education policies at local, state, and national levels. 

My message would also focus on the importance of teacher leadership with the implementation of college- and career-ready standards. I am personally involved as a fellow. 

How does this benefit students? As an education professional, I have been constantly asking this question. I started sharing my education experiences through speaking engagements, op-ed articles, and blog entries.  

Sometimes, we are changing too much in education too quickly. We need to focus our attention better. 

We need to make sure every decision we make benefits the students in our schools. It is hard for educators to be passionate about change when there is often no sustainability in the programs. 

We need teachers to challenge certain changes that may not benefit students. I choose to grow personally and professionally. 

However, sometimes change is not necessary for growth. Sometimes, we would experience more growth if we just worked on improving our current programs through collaboration.

I quickly learned that I was not the only one who was frustrated with certain education issues and changes in Michigan. My education stories are written for colleagues, students, and parents who do not always have the opportunity to share their opinions.  

The American Achieves Michigan Educator Voice Fellowship has taught me strategies for engaging policymakers. The issue in education that I care about most and feel most prepared to talk about is tackling student apathy. 

This includes preparing students to be employed in a career field based on their developed passions and critical thinking. I want to ask policymakers to promote other career field options besides four year universities such as community college, military, trade school, and starting your own business. 

My friend, we will call him "Bob", was pushed to go to a four year university without knowing and being too young or immature to understand his passions good enough to choose a career field. "Bob" took on thousands of dollars in student loan debt, changed his major multiple times, and ended up dropping out of a four year university without a degree. 

To make progress on this issue, I would need to influence responsible leaders within our local and state governments and universities through tactics such as round tables, town halls, and school visits. The stakeholders that I could engage to make progress on this issue include parents, advocacy groups, and the Michigan Department of Education.   

Our Michigan Merit Curriculum requires a form of algebra 2 for every student. Is this necessary? We need more dual enrollment programs with local community colleges to get every student career ready. 

Media Savvy: The "How To" of Op-Eds and Blogs 

Communication Skills: Your voices and story matters - Be Heard!

The Big Three of Communications:

What is the news? Big Idea.
Why does it matter? Know/Invest your audience! In-school story + big picture/news.
Who cares? Who does this affect? What is the emotional pull?

Intimidated or Nervous? That's normal.

Helpful hints: Be solutions orientated. Establish your credibility. Know your audience. Acknowledge concerns. Build a bridge. Take the high road. Don't get personal. Don't take things personally.  Do be respectful. Ignore bad behavior in the comments section. Bring the good news.

When writing the op-ed or blog, timing matters. It is essential to connect to a trending event or topic.

Get editing help. Stick to their word limit, which is usually 500-700 words or 200 words for a Letter to the Editor.

Contact, connect, and build supportive relationships with editors (and education reporters). Follow up. If you haven't heard back in 4-6 business day, reply in the same email thread, and reattach the op-ed.

If it doesn't get published, don't be discouraged!

Do you have ideas for improving schools in Michigan? If so, click here