How Can a Teacher Make a Difference in Education Policy?

by Sara Arnold

Seems a bit ironic, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t changes in education be made by well-trained educators?

Shutting our doors and teaching is no longer an option.

I used to believe that all I needed to do was be the best teacher I could be for my students. I had control of what happened in my classroom, but I had no idea how many decisions were being made about my profession by non-educators.

Many decisions that drive education are made in the state house, not the school house. Two years ago, I realized I could no longer sit idly by and allow policy to be made for me. Many people don’t know where to begin when it comes to education policy, so here are three things you can do to make a difference for your students.

Tell Classroom Stories to Your Legislators

It seems scary and intimidating, but your legislators want to hear from you. I made my first trip to the state house this January to be a voice for adequate funding for our schools. I was able to tell my story and offer my input back to my legislators.

You can talk about increasing class sizes, reductions in programming, increased testing….but also share your heartfelt stories. Stories of a student who learned how to read or a class that organized a food drive for a local food pantry. These stories are the reasons we became educators: to make a difference in the lives of others.

Just Say ‘Yes’

Whether it’s a state or local committee, say “yes” when you’re asked to serve. I said yes to a few local and state committees and I’ve learned so much through the process and had the opportunity to share my voice. Decisions are no longer being made for me, they’re being made with me at the table.

Always Do What’s Best for Your Students

You are the expert in your field. You know and understand your students, so do what’s best for them. As a teacher, I would never try and tell a neurosurgeon how to perform brain surgery, just as legislators shouldn’t be telling us how to do things in our classrooms. Sometimes we must stand up for what’s right and make decisions based on what’s best for our students.

Sara Arnold teaches elementary gifted and talented students in Iowa’s Cedar Rapids Public Schools. She participated in the VIVA ISEA Teachers Idea Exchange.

Spread the word. Share this post!

Leave a comment