Why I Keep Coming Back to Day on the Hill
Day on the Hill is AACTE’s signature event for involving its members in direct advocacy for the profession. I have attended Day on the Hill for 20 years. Why do I enjoy it and keep coming back? The answer has to do with involvement, camaraderie, and results.
Day on the Hill allows us as teacher education leaders to be involved with a national effort much bigger than ourselves and our own institutions. Our unified presence in congressional offices for one day every year makes us part of something special that has the potential to make a difference for our teacher candidates, our programs, and our communities. It is also a great way to involve our education candidates in the work. Each year, I select several undergraduate or graduate students to join my colleagues and me at Day on the Hill. Helping them learn about advocacy and being exposed to others in the profession opens them to a whole new side of the profession they are entering.
As educational leaders, we often feel isolated in our work of advocating for the profession and striving for improved educational policy. Day on the Hill reminds us that we are not alone in these efforts. DOTH participants are given time to collaborate with others within their state and beyond to develop group strategies, plan for meetings with congressional offices, and ways to follow up after Day on the Hill. Additionally, DOTH provides all participants with the latest information about federal legislation and policies, effective strategies for approaching members of Congress, and lessons learned from those who have engaged in advocacy over time.
Sometimes it is unclear whether the work we do in advocacy really makes a difference. Day on the Hill includes a debrief at the end of the day following visits to congressional offices. It is always interesting to compare notes with others and find out that there is similarity of reactions to the key ideas we all share. Although it is rare that we end the day with multiple people having gotten confirmation of a particular action, we often see that we are making similar impressions with our representatives across states, political parties, and geographical locations. These results really matter, and they help us continue to sharpen the messages and requests we make in the future. Another clear result is that you become known. Don’t be surprised when you reach out to your person the next time that he or she remembers who you are and may likely remember things you talked about in the last meeting.
My experiences are not unique. Your institution will benefit as much from participating in DOTH as mine does. Please register for Day on the Hill and build a delegation of other colleagues to attend with you.
Larry Daniel is the chair of the AACTE Committee on Government Relations and Advocacy and dean of the College of Education, University of Texas Permian Basin.