My blog last week was about the fall convening of the MI EdVoice Fellowship, and one thing that is still stuck in my head is all the information about messaging and branding.This has been a common theme of my summer - I also attended the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Academy for state networks.This was the yearly planning meeting for all of the state networks and resource centers associated with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Many sessions at the Academy also dealt with messaging and branding to help state networks increase their advocacy work. So I started thinking...why did two national associations spend so much time on this topic? And I had a bit of an epiphany.
Teachers are taught content and pedagogy and sent out into their first classroom. Many things are learned by trial and error or observation if you are lucky enough to find another teacher willing to share his or her mistakes and success with you. However, teachers (and administrators) also interact with a myriad of different folks, including the general public every time we leave our house and someone asks where we work and parents and families who ask us for help with every imaginable topic.
This leads to my epiphany. The sessions I attended at both conferences focussed on teachers as advocates with “stakeholders” who can help us advocate for and improve education. However, teachers interact with students ALL DAY LONG, they interact with parents and families just as much, and with other teachers and administrators. So why doesn’t professional development include information about honing your message, identifying stakeholders, sharing your message, and working towards a better result in the context of the school environment? I want families to be involved in their student’s education, understand how to support their student, feel comfortable approaching me with problems and questions, and feel like I am on their side in wanting their student to succeed, even when the conversation gets difficult. I think many families do, but there are always families I don’t quite connect or engage with.
At both conferences we talked about the big three: what is the news? why does it matter? who cares? I plan to use that when advocating for educational issues. But why shouldn’t I use that when asking my principal for a different role at school this year or talking to a family about specific actions they can take to support their student or even why another program might be better suited to their student? I want families to really hear my message and understand why I felt strongly enough about the issue for them to take time from their busy day and meet with me.
One thing keeps bugging me about this marketing information though. Advertisers intentionally manipulate consumers and I don’t intend to do that. I see this as a way for me to convey my message in a way that makes sense to that particular family and student, to help the student stay in the growth mindset, even in difficult times, and to strengthen my relationships with families. As I thought about this, another thing occurred to me: Nationally Board Certified Teachers are reflective. We reflect about our students and our lessons, about our professional learning and about our school populations, and this honing of my message and identifying the stakeholders and their feelings towards the subject is a way to continue reflecting about and strengthening my relationships with students and families.