Professional Development 1
NCSS Sponsored Webinars:
Sparking Curiosity - Geography, the C3 Framework and the Inquiry Arc
Wed, Sep 3, 2014 6:00 PM - 7:00 PM MDT
Get Digital with Discovery Education and NCSS
September 16, 2014through September 30, 2014
Mapping the Nation: Making Global Classroom Connections
September 18, 2014
President's Message from Stephen Armstrong,
National Council for the Social Studies
You Are the Advocate
For many social studies teachers working in the classroom, the statement that they should be engaged in “advocacy” for their profession sounds strange or scary. Many social studies teachers are told by their administrators not to let students know what their political positions are on local referendum issues, elections, etc., with an implication that all personal politics is to be dampened. In addition, many teachers perceive “advocacy” to be something that a few NCSS leaders might do off in Washington, DC; something with little connection to what they actually are doing in the classroom every day.
I have news for you: teachers have a constitutionally protected right to do important advocacy outside of the classroom, and it all begins at the local level. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the 30-year veteran—or the first-year teacher—talking to his or her state legislator or city/town council member on the value and importance of social studies education. With politics and budgets being as they are today, a large amount of legislative action that will directly impact social studies education is likely to take place at the local and state levels, and even national policy has its source at the grass roots.
Better than just lobbying a council member, begin by inviting him or her to speak to your classes or to help judge a Geography Bee competition. Successful advocates will tell you that building up this relationship is infinitely helpful.
Many teachers who go into a state legislator’s office for the first time fear that they won’t remember “everything that needs to be said.” Or, conversely, they are unclear just what to ask for. You may have only 10 or 15 short minutes to “make your case” (I have learned by this point to NOT take this time restriction personally). You might begin by briefly “Telling your story,” showing how social studies is important for your students. If you have a specific example of a student in your classes being positively impacted by what he or she did in your classes, tell that memorable story. Then, be prepared and ask for something specific. Don’t just ask for “more money for social studies,” rather, ask your legislator (or their aid, if the official is unavailable) to support a specific bill, initiative, or line item on a budget. Make sure you leave your card with the person you are speaking to, with assurances that you are available. Then, send a follow up note (not an email) to the person that you spoke with, thanking that person for his or her time.
Further hints: Advocate for all of the core disciplines of social studies, K-12. Since many legislators are especially interested when civics or civic education is mentioned, make sure that topic is covered. Coordinate with your local or state council leaders, and encourage others to do the same thing you are doing. Visit in groups of three or four, and rehearse your message before you arrive, and be sure you have a clearly articulated, central request.
Advocacy is not just something done by a few NCSS folks in Washington. The best advocacy is done by classroom teachers in their relationships with local and state officials. It’s never too late to begin!