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.

22179720_1477488702342433_5502877955342734371_o

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.

22141152_10155680500928428_6707788345245985982_n

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.

18403650_10154967411655804_3912919817326934532_n

The other side – building capacity within embracing the uncomfortable

A year ago, my friend and a strong, innovative principal in our school district, Dr. Sandy Chambers invited me to her school for an intense, thought provoking, immersion training with district peers. I had heard so much about the Racial Equity Institute and their training sessions from Sandy and another district friend, Mr. Michael Parker West for many months. Now I was engaged in the process.

Life changing professional development. Courageous conversations, learning and growing with mostly educators but a handful of folks from other professions as well. I was hooked immediately. I wanted to learn more, grow more with this work. How could I get more educators to become aware and not remaining complacent in “not knowing what they don’t know?” Embracing the uncomfortable as so often have said in the past year or so is powerful, yet so many in my profession and beyond shy away, why? How can we get more educators and beyond to embrace the uncomfortable, to build capacity within this powerful and such meaningful work?

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAQuAAAAJDdkZDI3MjU2LTliZmMtNDlhMC04ZTExLTFmNDViOGJmYjJiMg

In conjunction with my education policy work and through REI circles within our district and beyond I started to connect with other educators to learn and grow more. To encourage other educators to understand, grow, and build capacity and interest within others. I give major props to the above mentioned Michael and Sandy but also Ms. Erica Everett and Mr. Jeff Bugajski for further driving my understanding through sharing articles, viewing opportunties ongoing, inviting me to events, etc. Additionally, in the policy world, NC Rep. Graig Meyer, Wake County (NC) Commissioner Jessica Holmes and the Public School Forum of NC’s Mr. James Ford have all pushed me significantly with my understanding of equity and sparked courageous conversations through providing deeper learning opportunities with such.

After attending Racial Equity Institute (REI) trainings as both an attendee initially then as alumni to gain deeper perspective, I wanted to bring this work to key stakeholders at Carroll Middle School. I made an initial pitch to Mrs. MacWilliams over lunch with assistance from Michael and Sandy last spring. She was all in. We were going to have faculty from CMMS engaged in this meaningful work in the near future.

Fast forward to today, Saturday, September 23, 2017. I’m in the back of the REI circle at Brier Creek Elementary in Raleigh, NC — the “alumni area.” I’m so proud seeing my so many of my colleagues from Carroll Middle (along with district peers at Brier Creek Elementary and Horton’s Creek Elementary) voluntarily involved in this meaningful, deep work on a Saturday (and Sunday too) for the betterment of the students we all serve, our own craft and as a society overall.

IMG_3977

I’m beyond stoked to see where this work goes from here has the capacity is being built to take off both at Carroll Middle with our #TeamKidsFirst faculty here today (and tomorrow) as a result of this training and the engaging conversations occurring.

Proud day as an educator but this work is only getting started. #EquityMatters. Embrace the uncomfortable.