Perfecting Your Advocacy Skills at Washington Week
Advocacy for teacher preparation programs and the fundamental need to place highly diverse qualified teachers in the classroom across the nation is more dire than ever before. AACTE’s Washington Week is the precise opportunity to perfect one’s craft of advocacy through training, workshops, and immersive experiences by conducting congressional visits with Senators and Congressmen or Congresswomen on Capitol Hill.
Legislators may not be aware of the obstacles our teacher preparation programs are confronted with on a daily basis nor the negative impact it is having on school districts in surrounding communities, and someone else might be telling your story incorrectly. This is one of the times when universities aren’t competing against one another and can come together to advocate the need for teacher preparation to be an equitable education for all children. Institutions of higher education are able to cohesively express the barriers encountered by teacher preparation programs and share their stories as one collective unit to their designated state legislators. You are able to learn how to advocate for the importance of the Higher Education Act, Teacher Quality Grants, and other fiscal appropriations that pertain to teacher preparation in the hopes that legislators will move it to the forefront of their agenda. More significantly, Washington Week has returned in person this year allowing you to better collaborate with colleagues in your field and even within your state.
It may seem intimidating to meet and discuss vital topics with legislators, and even the seasoned pros get nervous as well, which is why Washington Week assists in mollifying any apprehensive feelings regarding speaking directly to legislators because we are all here to advocate together. An effective strategy to try before attending Washington Week is to try role-playing a Congressional visit with a colleague, someone you know who will be attending, or, even better, one/class of your teacher candidates. This will allow you ample practice while exhibiting the significance of advocacy for your teacher candidates. We are passionate about teacher preparation programs because we know how immensely and positively it impacts the children in our local classrooms and, ultimately, our surrounding community. No one at Washington Week expects you to be an expert at advocacy, because advocacy is ever-evolving as legislation changes, just as the field of education is.
Washington Week 2022 is unique this year by morphing the program into three separate events — State Leaders Institute, Holmes Policy Institute, and Day on the Hill — thus formulating a mini-conference brimming with all the tools you need to advocate sufficiently and adequately. AACTE provides a wealth of information on their advocacy center section of their website that will also help prepare you for Washington Week. The more we can learn how to advocate for the field of teaching, the more others will understand our stories, because without effective teachers, other fields or careers may cease to exist.
Register now for Washington Week.
Lisa Bisogno, chair of the AACTE Committee on Government relations and Advocacy is associate dean of the College of Education and professor of special education at Northeastern State University.