By Jennifer Reinhardt
If you’ve been on social media channels lately, you’ve probably seen Gary Turk’s “Look Up” video, which urges us to put down our smartphones and engage with the people around us.
I admit that I am often guilty of this, choosing to beat the next level of Candy Crush (or not) instead of striking up a conversation with the person sitting next to me.
But, I think it’s a mistake to frame all types of online engagement as a cacophony of noise that distracts us from being “productive and present,” as the video would say, in our own lives.
Here at New Voice Strategies, we strive to create authentic relationships that propel policy change by cultivating trust between our members and partners. And we do so primarily through online tools.
I’ve never met face-to-face most of the teachers and community leaders whom I am honored and humbled to work with. I don’t have to; technology offers us a powerful platform from which to support, connect, promote, and learn from one another.
Here are three recent examples that highlight our online community coming together to identify key issues and take action:
1) After an online discussion about how housing issues affect students, and how teachers can take leadership roles to advocate for change, Julie Miller Hays (Anoka, Minn.) attended the Urban Institute’s “How Housing Matters” roundtable in Washington, D.C., in April. She was the only teacher representative on the panel.
2) Fellow educators Ahngelique Davis (Philadelphia, Pa.) and Lesley Hagelgans (Union City, Mich.) are currently forming a research cohort among VIVA Leaders to promote scalable research models across school districts and create a pipeline for teacher-led research and articles.
3) In conjunction with Jose Vilson’s (New York, N.Y.) new book This is Not a Test, a collection of essays about race, class, and teaching, “with a mix of research and first-hand experience,” we’re exploring ways to engage our members around social justice issues in the classroom and beyond. If you are interested in hosting a community event or participating in a book discussion, let us know!
We believe what distinguishes our VIVA community is how we elevate one another and put teacher voice front and center in our dialogue.
As we continue to build our engagement programs, we would love to hear your feedback or suggestions. Please share success stories from within your district, or let us know if you would like to join or form an action group around a particular issue.
Jennifer Reinhardt is New Voice Strategies’ engagement program manager. She works through the VIVA Leadership Center to design, implement and lead strategic campaigns around practitioner-identified issues.