It’s true that one person can create a lot of noise! Someone created a Facebook event called “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us” – an event being planned to storm the government’s military base on September 20 to supposedly see the aliens that are being covered up by the government. To date, more than 1.7 million people have signed up, while more than 1.2 million people are interested.
The creator of the Facebook page has been identified and confessed the plan to be a joke not expecting to get this much reaction. The U.S. Air Force certainly hopes that’s true and issued a warning that “any attempt to illegally access military installations or military training areas is dangerous.”
While I can appreciate a good joke, this isn’t the way to get a point across for things we really want to see bring about change. While we might have access to social media to post our attitudes toward a person, a belief about an issue, or local, state, or national policy, the need for advocacy through the proper channels can have a much more beneficial result.
I am still amazed by educators who take to social media and post an educationally political complaint or argument as their way of “taking action”. While the post may be completely accurate and garner “likes” and “retweets”, the question is whether any action will be a result from it. What happens after the Facebook post is posted?
We all have them – something that gets us stirred up. Something that irritates us enough that we desire to go from dissatisfaction to action.
What’s Your “Area 51”?
I’m all for taking to social media to rally others as a way to inform and show the support for change, but as educational leaders I encourage you to take action by employing these 4 Tactics to Storm Your Area 51:
Tactic #1: Stay Informed. Educators need to be up-to-date on education-related events and conversations happening at the local, state, and national level. Before going to work each morning, I make sure to read the local newspapers for anything that may have transpired overnight, as well as on-going issues. To get information at the State and National levels, I subscribe to updates from organizations, such as ASCD, (ASCD Educator Advocates), the Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrator (OASSA), and the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Many state and national organizations have weekly or monthly email updates in which you can subscribe.
Tactic #2: Get Connected. In addition to receiving emails from these organizations, find ways to engage in them. Many organizations have a legislative committee on which you can serve on – they not only provide deeper focus on educational topics but also help to gather other educators to better understand an issue from more sides and perspectives. For example, in serving on the OASSA Legislative Committee last year, I am better able to understand policy issues from districts with various enrollments, demographics, budgetary constraints, and resources. This helps me to have a better understanding on the impact and areas I may not have considered. I also stay informed by connecting with the state and national education-related legislators. I follow them on Twitter and look to build relationships with them. You can find more information about your legislators at: State Legislature Website
Tactic #3: Advocate. Tactic #1 and #2 aren’t enough; advocacy is imperative and the heart of change. As I continue to meet with state level legislators, they continue to encourage me to call, email, and let them know about the current realities and needs for change based on my work. While there’s a tendency to believe all legislators don’t want to hear from us, it’s not the case for some of them. If you do your homework to find and connect with a legislator seeking similar change from the previous two tactics, it will be easier to have a platform and opportunity to share your perspective. You may be asked to write a testimony to share at a legislative committee hearing or actually appear in the hearing! Last year, I participated in my first hearing. I was nervous at first, but as I spoke, I continued to remind myself that I am knowledgeable and experienced based on the fact that I am in educator in schools every day. After each question asked by the legislators, it was more affirming that educators are needed to talk about the realities in our schools!
A running joke I tell myself is that I wanted to go into education to stay out of politics. It’s everywhere; you can’t hide from it. Regardless of your years of experience, your position, or your geographic location, your voice is important and necessary. While grand changes that impact education, our students, and educators are being made more and more each day, it’s critical that we take an informed and active stance. When asked what I did for a living, I used to say that I educate students; now, I tell them I educate – not just students in a classroom, but adults and, if necessary, in a courtroom as well. I challenge you to identify your legislators, build relationships with them, stay informed on state and national news, and advocate! Good luck storming your Area 51 this year!