Get informed. Leave the sideline. Take a seat at the table.

“Thank you for standing up for educators, Brendan.”

“Your passion and dedication for all of us is so impressive”

“You are such a strong voice for our profession.”

You always know what’s going on with the inner workings politically as it relates to education.”

This is a sampling of what I hear often from fellow educators. Why? I’m involved fairly heavily in educational policy in our state. While the above words of kindness are nice, and always well meaning I tend to push back on it. To me, as professional educators we all should be at the very least, informed.

As alluded to in a previous post, our state, especially in the Triangle market, does a great job of providing local political coverage that relates almost always indirectly, often directly to public education.

With the bulk of the funding in North Carolina coming from the state level (legislature) it really should be in the interest of all educators in the public sector especially to keep a close eye on what is happening on Jones Street and how it connects to our profession.

The Public School Forum of North Carolina offers a weekly program, Education Matters, that airs locally and also is available through online and podcast platforms that deals with significant issues directly related to our profession.

NC Spin offers weekly balanced debate on issues that often at the very least indirectly effect public education weekly and offers a strong method to be informed about what’s happening legislatively. In addition to airing locally, the program also is available online and in podcast formats.

Locally in the Raleigh market, the News & Observer has a daily blog and weekly podcast Under the Dome which provide insight and analysis that often dig deep into K-12 and higher education happenings.

In addition to being informed the next aspect is having a seat at the table. Whether local funding through the Wake County Board of Commissioners, or statewide advocacy groups like Public Schools First NC, North Carolina Foundation for Public School Children or the above mentioned Public School Forum of North Carolina being able to support public education at the next level is significant. Telling examples of what is happening in our schools, the needs, the successes, how we can improve and what specifically is needed. The seat at the table provides a voice. The more seats at the table, the louder the voice.

Being aware is the first step, involvement the second. Everyone in our profession should be aware. You don’t know what you don’t know is dangerous. Awareness is key. Involvement in the profess is the next step. At times it can be a little scary initially. Step out of your comfort zone. Advocate for the students we all serve and our profession. This is the opportunity to tell the amazing things happening in our schools K-12 and beyond on a daily basis to key stakeholders in our communities and beyond.

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Stay after these meetings, talk with with the board members, elected officials. Consider making an appointment with your local elected official or state house representative or state senate member. You’d be surprised how much these people truly want to hear what they can do to better the process.

It helps when you advocate in groups. For example the below group of educational leaders and I locally are all involved with equity outreach.

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Once you have that initial foundation when the time is right – step off the sideline. Make your voice heard. #KidsDeserveIt after all, right? So what do you say? Up for a seat at the table? Embrace the uncomfortable.

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The power of personal growth in exploration of the uncomfortable

This past week I had the privilege of attending an educator’s night at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences  to help roll out the museum’s latest special exhibit RACE: Are We So Different? I had the great opportunity to spend several hours of conversation and exploration of the new exhibit with a group of educators from around the region while sharing the space with several district friends and colleagues as well.

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At the end of the evening, my biggest takeaway was not about the content. It was that the common inclination of many is to shy away from the uncomfortable.

As someone who is fairly “comfortable” being uncomfortable – from racial equity training, to diving into education policy in an effort to gain deeper meaning of what’s happening within our profession at the state and local level to having discussion about poverty in our schools  I see the value in being uncomfortable.

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As educators, we all are busy. Balancing life along with our career is so often a delicate act especially in the later stages of the academic year when we all are rolling along in 5th gear seemingly. However, as professionals it should always be up to us to grow, learn and improve as not only educators but also humans.

The person I am today as a professional is a far cry from 5 years ago. That’s not saying I was a lousy educator or human being but rather I have learned, grown and improved significantly in that time. A big reason why? Embracing of the uncomfortable.

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Its often much, much easier to simply “bury our heads in the sand” to utilize my grandfather’s favorite cliche than learn and grow together by having challenging “uncomfortable” conversations.

As educators, we should be learning more about the students and families we all serve on a deeper level. I’m thankful that in our district, Dr. Trice and his team in the Office of Equity Affairs we have made great strides in this effort. This effort introduced me to the Cultural Proficiency text which broadened my horizons even more.

Two friends and district peers Mr. Michael Parker West and Dr. Sandy Chambers introduced me to the Racial Equity Institute which challenged my thinking on a much, much deeper level. Can all of this be uncomfortable? Absolutely. Is it meaningful? 110 percent. Vital in order to shift the conversation? Absolutely.

As educators I can’t begin to express the importance of facing the uncomfortable. Follow what faces our profession directly with legislation. In our state alone we are blessed to have two excellent weekly programs which address our profession directly and/or indirectly on an in depth and balanced level. My point being the information is out there, readily available. Its up to us as professionals to take that information, have conversations that are sometimes uncomfortable and advocate.

IMG_9291-1080x675hqdefaultThere is incredible capacity within the uncomfortable. There is strength in harnessing the uncomfortable initially and turning into comfort. This is how we truly have the greatest impact on our schools, peers, families, stakeholders and ultimately the students we all serve.

Taking that initial leap into the uncomfortable is always tough. After all its a risk – outside of our comfort zone. At the end of the day, Dr. Maxwell might have said it best with this quote… 167903-John-C-Maxwell-Quote-A-person-who-refuses-to-risk-change-fails-to.jpgThe resources are all there. Will we embrace them and have conversations or will we be sufficient with a “things will all be ok” mentality?  The ball is in our court.