Americans trust principals to care about others, provide fair and accurate information, and handle resources responsibility. A Pew Research Center survey shows that Americans have an even higher trust for school leaders than police, military leaders, and less surprisingly, journalists and members of Congress. This trust brings tremendous credibility when advocating for students, teachers, learning, and your school.
With this trust comes a great responsibility. We can no longer sit idle—we must become knowledgeable, proactive, and engaged in advocacy to improve the lives of our students, teachers, and community. I know when I first started advocating for education, I was very nervous. However, NASSP made it so easy that I found myself becoming confident as an advocate, and now I look forward to opportunities to advocate for our kids and staff. Plus, you can advocate locally, statewide, and on the federal level. If you are anxious about stepping into the waters of advocacy, start local, check out the tips below, and jump in!
1. Be Informed. The best advocate is an informed advocate. I have to admit that at first, I wasn’t fully informed and updated on the latest things going on in state and federal education policy. Through my involvement with NASSP, I have grown tremendously in this area. NASSP makes advocacy easy and intuitive.
- Visit the NASSP Policy & Advocacy Center to learn more about important federal legislation impacting schools and tools to help principals be grassroots advocates.
- Review position statements on key topics of national significance to school leaders that include policy recommendations approved by the NASSP Board of Directors.
2. Act. Take action and stand up to improve education for all. Doing so can be easy and effective. Our students, teachers, and communities need your action to make an impact.
- Stay informed about education policy with NASSP in order to advocate for school safety, Title II funding in schools, protecting the rights of all students with the Equality Act, and The Prep Act to support principal preparation programs. NASSP makes it easy to get your voice heard with their Phone2Action platform. A simple text, email, or phone call to lawmakers goes a long way in advocating for education.
3. Attend. Attend the NASSP Advocacy Conference to learn how to advocate, spend time on Capitol Hill advocating alongside other principals, and meet your federal legislators. Registration for the conference is free.
- Learn more about the Advocacy Conference this March 23–25 and register.
4. Shadow. One of the most powerful things you can do to advocate is to invite state and federal lawmakers into your building to shadow you for a day. I invited our representative to spend the day with me and to meet and connect with our students. He shared how powerful this day was since he got to see a typical day in the life of a principal, and hopefully this will inform the decisions he makes about education policy in the future.
- Learn more about great resources on how to invite your members of Congress or state legislators to your school.
5. Connect. There’s no reason to advocate alone—connect with other principals to advocate for your school and district. There’s strength in numbers and an opportunity to expand your network at the same time.
- Get connected with principals in your state.
I know firsthand how busy the life of a principal can be, but I also know the importance of committing time to advocating for education. Start small and build big. Take time to sign up with NASSP’s action center, attend the Advocacy Conference, or start by getting informed. I’m confident you will find the role of advocacy as empowering and inspiring in your role as principal. Finally, I encourage you to share your story of advocacy with other principals. Let’s join together to make education so much better for our kids. Their future depends on it.
Bill Ziegler, EdD, is the principal of Pottsgrove High School in Pottstown, PA. He was a 2015 NASSP Digital Principal of the Year and the 2016 Pennsylvania Principal of the Year. Bill is the host of “Lead the Way, A Podcast for School Leaders” that works to encourage, equip, and empower school leaders. He is also the co-author of Future Focused Leaders: Relate, Innovate, and Invigorate for Real Educational Change. Follow him on Twitter (@drbillziegler), visit his website at www.chaselearning.org, or email him at email@example.com.