How to make Advocacy Less Scary

  • 1.  How to make Advocacy Less Scary

    Posted 06-08-2018 11:48
    So the wonderful Shea and Jim thought this post would help those who are out there wanting to get started in or expanding your reach in advocacy.  This post will focus on three parts.

    1.  Politics can be scary to some. How would you suggest someone become more aware and involved in political arts advocacy?

    Politics to those that know me even a little, know my passion for the "great game" that makes up our government.  Politics should scare no one. We all have to live it. The good, the bad, and all in-between. Remember that politicians are public servants.   Politics is woven into the very fabric that hands down the decisions of how we get our funds for classrooms and what will be the predominate policy on educational practices for the next 4, 6, or even 20 years.  While  educators can complain to each other it does nothing to solve the problem.  This is where we must get involved for a positive change.  While we all see the national trends we have to think smaller to make any real impact.  First thing to remember when breaking down politics is that politicians operate in areas of gray and not in the Facebook post world of black and white beliefs.  I found common ground on the Hill with a local congressman who owns a gun store.  We are about as politically separate on most views as two people can get.  However it is key to remember especially when getting into the local arena of politics you almost always will find at least one shared moment or experience.  To those who want to get involved it is best to learn how your local entity funds schools.  These can sometimes be difficult to find but they are a matter of public record. If you can't find them go to your local government website and search for public records.  You may have to fill out a request form but you have every right to that information.   Learn your school board members names and attend meetings.  Talk to your administration. Learn your county and city commissioners.  Many of your county commissioners have some ties to the local schools or school system.  Be honest but be polite. Use facts but have a story.  Numbers and data are nothing without a testament behind them.  We all have stories and students that will make our case for us.  Ultimately if we don't stand up for our jobs another group will stand up for theirs and we will be pushed to the side.

    2.    "I have a group of people to call me out on my BS."- How has the ALN made you a stronger advocate? Why would you recommend it to others?

    The quote is a direct one I said when I first started to work with the ALN (Advocacy Leadership Network). For many years I was all over the place in my advocacy and I wasn't focused.  I love a good debate and from time to time I can  exaggerate or become over emotional.  The ALN along with close friends will call me on my BS. The ALN has focused my advocacy and helped me use my strengths to my advantages.  I like many theatre people have a gift for gab and can talk non stop.  The ALN has helped me to listen more which allows me to see others views.  It's like an enjoyable Meisner exercise. The ALN is a way to focus your energy with like minded people who can help you see the value in your abilities and challenge you in your work.

    3.    Letter writing campaign within your districts?

    The final part is practical knowledge that you can take to get started in your advocacy.  Starting a letter writing campaign is an easy way to get going with advocacy.  One of the most impactful ways to reach your leaders is through a personal hand written letter. On more than one occasion I have heard from leaders that remember something they read not in an email but in a handwritten note.  The best way to start is simply look up your local leaders and find there address and send them a note.  Be kind and courteous and let them know why you are writing them.  Be succinct in the letter and always leave a way they can reach you if they have questions.  At the end thank them for their time. Finding balance in writing the letter can be tricky.  You don't want to be bothersome but you also don't want to be forgotten.  One letter a month is where I have found my balance.  If there is an important issue on the horizon I will also add a quick phone call or an email.

    Hope this helps.  If anyone has questions or wants to chat about becoming a member of the ALN just send me a message or email.  

    [Chris] [Veneris]
    Theatre Educator/NC Chapter Director]
    Guilford County Schools
    [Greensboro] [NC]