In teacher education programs, we have a responsibility to prepare future teachers for the civic profession of education. For me, this means registering students to vote in my classes, advocating for political activism, and encouraging them to see themselves as agents of political change (and to act accordingly!).
Teaching is political.
I’m following the walk outs in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Kentucky closely as their demands are the demands of educators across the nation. Education has been deeply underfunded for two decades and low teacher salaries is just one of many far reaching consequences of political funding decisions. Without funding, we are incapable of providing the supports necessary for meaningful inclusion of all learners. Without funding, we are unable to promote professional growth and development of teachers to become and grow as teacher leaders. Without funding, we struggle to convince exemplary teachers to host and mentor teacher interns. Our ability to recruit and retain the most engaging, responsive, empathetic, caring educators is compromised by our society’s weak commitment to education.
Our budget reflects our values. Despite the teacher appreciation week festivities, as a country we do not value teachers or educational spaces.
Teaching is political.
So how can you get involved in moving teaching to a respected profession?
Join your professional organization!! Join the Council for Exceptional Children if you are a special educator, the Division of Early Childhood and the National Association for the Education of Young Children for inclusive early childhood educators, the National Council for Teachers of English for you Language Arts educators. Whatever your speciality, your professional organization needs you and your expertise!
REGISTER. TO. VOTE. AND. VOTE. In every election. In your local elections, school boards, city council, and mayor. Vote in your state election, on education proposals, and community works initiatives. Know your community’s priorities and engage in advocating for education. Vote at the state and national level. Know who you are voting for and what they believe about kids, teachers, education, and funding. Track their votes so you can vote them out if they haven’t represented education well in the past.
We collectively make up the profession and we can ensure it reflects our collective values. We can advocate for children, for teachers, for families, for resources. We can make our voices heard.
I know you are tired.
But teaching is political. And so are you.
Jen Newton, PhD is an assistant professor in early childhood/early childhood special education (isn’t that a lot of words for what should be one field??). I talk a lot and have strong opinions – or so I am told.