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‘Policy is Personal’ and ‘Information is Currency’

This article is a personal reflection of the 2021Washington Week Holmes Policy Advanced Policy Course by attendee Shauna Torrington.

Shauna TorringtonMy takeaways from my participation in the Holmes Advanced Policy Course have been threefold. This course has impacted me as an international student, an advocate, and as a practitioner.

As an international student, I have a greater understanding about the terminology that is normally used in policy advocacy. This new knowledge has enabled me to follow along with a clearer understanding during discussions on policy. The words representative, senator, and congressperson also now have greater meanings for me. I am aware of the basics of the legislative process and can better follow the process of how a bill becomes a law. I now know what it means to introduce a bill or to sponsor a bill. Additionally, I know what a “markup” means and what is the process that comes after a markup. I know where to look to find information on my senators and my representatives. I know how to contact their offices or to see what issues they voted for or against.

As an advocate, I learned a lot about the policy process. The 4 Ps of Policymaking is a framework that I now use when I talk about my takeaways from the just concluded course. I will continue to use this framework to ground my ability to talk about policymaking in a clear and understandable manner. Jane West’s framework reiterates that the people, the policy, the politics, and the process all affect what could or would eventually become law.

As a practitioner, I can identify where or why teacher shortages exist and which states have systems in place to address these shortages. I was able to realize that in many of the areas I am most passionate about, there are great needs for specialist teachers—for example, bilingualism, TESOL, and foreign or world languages. I was again able to look at these processes with an international lens. I was able to see what states have a reciprocity process and how states differ in their approach to teachers with international credentials. Throughout the entire course, I felt, validated. I felt heard, and most of all, I was able to see myself, a minority student who had a poor upbringing, reflected in many of the people with whom we got to speak and interact.

As an advocate, I got emotional hearing from Congressman Mondaire Jones about H.R 2886 (Universal Childcare and Early Learning Act) and H. R 1241(Full-Service Community School Expansion Act of 2021) for universal childcare, which focuses on the need of the whole child, and free community college for two years. As a doctoral student and a mom, I decided to be at the table and not on the menu. I will be a truthteller! Two clear steps I have in mind for advocacy are 1) I plan to reach out to the Connie Patterson, assistant dean for academic engagement and outreach in Patton College at Ohio University to learn more about opportunities for policy advocacy. She normally facilitates activities for both staff and faculty to engage with both state and national legislators, an initiative that I had previously had the opportunity to be part of; and 2) Look at the policy my school district uses to engage minority teachers and teachers of color.

In conclusion, my only regret is not attending this course before. I had postponed my involvement for quite some time. I, therefore, urge all Holmes Scholars to be a part of this course if you have not done so before. If you did have attended previously, there is so much more to learn. Two quotes that resounded in my mind and that I want to leave with you are “policy is personal” (Congressman Jones) and “Information is currency” (Lakeisha Steel, education and Labor Committee professional staffer). I say a big thank you to the organizers.

Shauna Torrington is presently a Holmes Scholar in the Patton College of Education where she is a third year PhD student in the Department of Teacher Education- Curriculum and Instruction.

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