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Namaste: Incorporating Advocacy into your "Practice" - Back to School 2019
This morning, I went to my first power yoga class. Now that I've been practicing yoga on a weekly basis for about a year and a half, I've been considering learning some of the more advanced poses - think headstands and weird body contortions. I heard about the power class through my vinyasa yoga instructor, who agreed that I would probably love some of the more challenging inversion poses that are practiced in a more advanced class.
As I thought about incorporating different poses into my "practice," I couldn't help but draw a connection to what school psychologists do on a daily basis at work - their own form of "practice." I'm not a school psychologist myself, but I do know that practicing school psychology includes aspects of the practice model, made up of comprehensive and integrated professional services. With this in mind, I thought to challenge school psychologists to incorporate advocacy into their "practice" this school year - through the frame of a yoga class.
SO! For the purposes of this blog post, I want you to think of me as your instructor. I'll be guiding you through some of your potential advocacy efforts this school year. Stay with me; I promise this will go somewhere - and you'll leave practice feeling refreshed, healthy, and ready for more.
Class starts now!
Setting your Intention
As you enter a new school year, I want you to think of an intention for your advocacy practice. Maybe there's someone you'd like to dedicate your energy too - a particular student, family, or maybe a colleague.
Maybe it's yourself. Maybe, you want to use your advocacy efforts this year to improve your own experience and conditions.
Close your eyes and think about it. Picture that person.
For anyone who has practiced yoga before, you know that there are transitional options when you're entering a new pose: one for someone who is just beginning, or may be tired; a potential adjustment to something more intermediate; and then the option to try a pose that's a little more advanced.
Let's try our first pose. To warm up, we'll stretch out a little bit.
The Stretch - Downward Facing Dog Pose
So maybe politics makes you a little uncomfortable, and you feel like you don't even know the basics, or where to start. That's okay! We all live busy lives, and it can be hard to remember every word and nuance within the Schoolhouse Rock anthem, "I'm Just a Bill."
Your first poses can be some of the most important, so take your time. Do these the right way - stretch out your legs and ground yourself, as it can impact the entire rest of your practice.
This summer, NASP released its Policy Playbook (accessible to members only) - a comprehensive educational resource that can guide individuals or leaders through advocacy strategies and ideas. Part II of the Playbook gives you a rundown of the basics - who are your elected representatives? How does a bill become a law again? What does a legislator actually do? Maybe your first stretch in advocacy this year is just to review the facts.
Whenever you're ready, we can transition into identifying some ways to keep you in-the-know of the issues that face school psychology and education at large. NASP maintains the Policy Matters Blog, comprising of up-to-date policy news from Capitol Hill and across the country, updates from NASP's advocacy team, and strategies that individuals and states have used to build capacity for their advocacy efforts in their communities. Bookmark it!
Another way to stay constantly aware of these issues is to plug in to the right news sites. This can be through social media or subscribing to daily emails. Here are some of our favorites:
- Morning Education by Politico (@Morning_Edu) - Politico sends out a fantastic daily newsletter that examines the latest news in education politics and policy on a daily basis. You can subscribe to that newsletter here.
- Fritzwire: Similarly, Public Private Action sends out a daily education policy newsletter, called Fritzwire, which you can subscribe to here.
- Education Week (@edweek), NPR (npr_ed), and the Center for American Progress (@EdProgress) also have departments that regularly shares news, research, analyses, and more.
Nice job! Setting a baseline of knowledge and ways to stay connected is a key part to adding advocacy to your practice.
Now we're going to transition to a pose that we will call the "warrior." Armed with the knowledge you now have, you're ready to take some action.
Warrior 1: NASP regularly encourages members to take action by sending letters or calling congressional offices through its Advocacy Action Center (bookmark this page, too!). At all times, there will be pre-written template letters that you can edit and send to your elected representatives, simply by filling out the form linked to the letter subject. Seriously, it takes two minutes. And, if you send a few now or in the future, you'll get alert emails from NASP whenever there is a need for your action around a specific bill or policy proposal.
Maybe, you might even join the rapid response team list, where you can receive emails asking you to amplify NASP's responses to various current events.
Advocacy via social media can be effective, too - especially in small states or local communities. Sometimes, you can get legislators' attention to your issue simply by tweeting at them! Be sure to like and follow NASP on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram too, so you don't miss our action alerts. And if you are unsure of where to start with social media, check out the Policy Playbook!
Alright, now...-deep breath in-
And let's continue.
Warrior 2: Each year during School Psychology Awareness Week, NASP holds a national day of action, where school psychologists and advocates contact their state and federal representatives through the Advocacy Action Center. The purpose of this event is to discuss who school psychologists are, what they do, and to inform them leaders about some of the policy issues they face. This year, the day of action will take place on Wednesday, November 13th. Be sure to check back here as the date comes closer for more information.
Warrior 3: If you're feeling up for a challenge, join NASP's advocacy and policy interest group in NASP communities. Maybe even pose a question, or post an interesting article with some of your thoughts. This is a space where you can talk about current political topics, stay aware of NASP's advocacy efforts and learn about ways you can get involved.
Your form is perfect! Really becoming the ideal advocacy warrior. Let's keep going!
You probably are aware that not all politics happen at the national level, and that local and state decisions can impact your day-to-day practice even more than the feds. So for this pose, we're going to think about some steps you can take to get involved with advocacy in your state and local community, by spreading your branches - like a tree!
One of the new resources NASP is offering this year is an interactive map of state bills that are relevant to school psychology. Simply by clicking on your state, you can get a full list of, and links to, bills that has been flagged in NASP's state legislation tracking software.
Maybe you read a bill that made you feel particularly inspired, interested, or concerned. If that's the case, don't be afraid to lift up your arms like branches and wave; contact your state association to see what they're doing about the bill, and ask how you can help!
Great job! Hopefully this pose made you feel even more flexible.
If you're ready for something a little more advanced, I encourage you to read through the Policy Playbook in it's entirety. One of the best ways to get your message across to your leaders, whether it be your local school board, state or federal representatives, is to meet with them directly. The Policy Playbook provides information and resources on how to schedule meetings with them, tips on what to expect from your meeting, and ideas for message development efforts prior to your meeting.
NASP has also published issue-specific resources - including research documents, key messages, infographs, and more - that you can use to prepare for meetings and communications with legislators. You can find these resources organized by policy area on our critical policy issues webpage.
To end our class, we'll finish with the traditional shavasana pose.
Take some time to reflect on your practice. How are you feeling? What was your favorite pose? What was your least favorite, and how can you make it easier in the future? How can you improve? Maybe you can identify some ways to further challenge yourself next time.
Thank you for allowing me to guide you through your practice. I see a light and energy in you that I know can have an enormous impact on the kids, schools and communities that you serve. Thank you for all that you do every day to change the world - one child at a time. I wish you all the best in your advocacy efforts this school year.