I am here at the NCTE convention talking with our amazing members about advocacy. Here is some of the information I’m sharing with them about how we can 1) support members’ advocacy initiatives and 2) how members can be part of the larger initiatives fueled by NCTE.
Advocacy Day: On Thursday, February 25, 2016, NCTE members will go to Capitol Hill to meet with either their US Senator or congressional representative or staff to discuss key recommendations from the literacy policy platform crafted by the NCTE Policy and Advocacy Subcommittee. Members have the distinct opportunity to share their stories and concerns about issues and challenges facing them in their classrooms. Policymakers listen to teachers because teachers are on the front line every day. This is your day to make a difference, with training and support from policy and advocacy experts.
Advocacy Month: March is NCTE’s month of advocacy. During this month, members can take action from a range of opportunities, building their policy knowledge and advocacy skills. They can call, email, or contact their representatives through social media. They can meet with staff or elected representatives in their home offices or attend hearings or town halls in their states. Members can also write letters or op-eds in local and national publications and participate in professional learning opportunities related to policy and advocacy. NCTE lists all the various activities on its Literacy Education Advocacy Activities page.
Advocacy Blog and Events: Every Friday, NCTE publishes an advocacy blog. Blog entries vary from advocacy tips to analysis of federal legislation, critical state issues, and education issues that NCTE addresses through its advocacy. Members are invited to share their stories. Periodic online events also bring together NCTE members and key stakeholders to discuss key issues.
Policy Analysis Initiative: NCTE has two policy analysts representing all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia. One covers education issues from preK through grade 12 and the other covers higher education. The reports that policy analysts post on the NCTE website describe trends and critical issues. NCTE encourages members to read and act on their state’s policy analysts’ reports, as well as to volunteer to serve as policy analysts.
Education Policy Platform: Each year the Policy and Advocacy Subcommittee meets to learn about education policy issues and developments that impact literacy education in the United States, drawing on that information and their own expertise to craft the policy platform that guides the Council’s work throughout the year. NCTE invites members to share issues they deem critical with staff and Executive Committee members.
NCTE members may submit resolutions on important literacy education topics for consideration by the Committee on Resolutions during the Annual Convention. If the resolution is approved by the NCTE membership, it becomes an official position of NCTE, serving as a guide to NCTE advocates. Position statements are shared widely with educators, administrators, policymakers, and the public.
Williamson Policy Advocate: NCTE members can apply for this position created in honor of former NCTE Executive Director Kent Williamson. A K–16 educator will work with NCTE staff to influence legislators and agency officials during a month long summer residency in Washington, DC. The Policy Advocate also will follow state developments, participate in Advocacy Day and Advocacy Month, and share insights on the NCTE blog throughout the year.
How to Advocate at the School, College, University, Local, State, or Federal Level
Know your position. Know your facts. Collect your data, charts, and stories to support your position.
Know your stakeholder(s). Find common areas to discuss: alma mater, sports, the arts, food, and hometown: anything that allows you to engage in neutral conversation and establish a connection.
Know your stakeholder’s(s’) position. Study your stakeholder’s past or current statements, which you can find online.
Establish relationships with your stakeholders—on both sides of the aisle. Invite for coffee, if possible.
Arrange meetings with stakeholders or staff.
- Ask a couple of supporters to join you but not so many that the number is intimidating.
- Introduce yourself and others who are with you.
- Engage in small talk. Then discuss why you are there.
- Prepare one-pagers delineating and supporting your position that you can leave behind.
- After the meeting, write thank-you notes or emails reiterating and emphasizing your position.
Write emails to stakeholders. Again, be succinct, state your position, make your “ask.” Offer thanks.
Speak at meetings or testify at hearings. Be succinct and confident. Invite colleagues and supporters to do the same. If you are there for the same issue, break it up into different aspects so as not to bore your audience.
Pack the room with your supporters. Find out which colleagues or community members support your position and invite them to attend. Ask them to speak as well. Even if they are not willing, their support and numbers will be noticed, especially if they clap when you are eloquent or stand up in support.
Be passionate but not scary. Dress well. Look your listeners in the eye. Be articulate and concise.
Write letters or editorial opinions to your local/national newspapers. Ask your supporters to do the same. Be factual and succinct, noting your stakeholder’s positions and providing evidence to support yours.
Establish relationships with the media. Get to know your local reporters for print, radio, and TV.
Circulate a petition. These can be done online or by walking around asking people to sign a hard copy. Present the petition to your stakeholder(s) as evidence of how much support you have.
Utilize social media. Post to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, addressing stakeholders you wish to reach.
Visit NCTE’s Advocacy Page. Download the Tips sheet. Although geared toward meeting congressional representatives and staff, these tips can be used for all types of advocacy.