The ABCs of Advocacy
This is a continuing series of columns on effective advocacy. We thank Dr. Julia Link Roberts, Past Chair of the NAGC legislative committee, and Tracy Ford Inman, Chair of PHP Editorial Advisory Board, both of Western Kentucky University, for preparing this series.
Are you new to advocating on behalf of children who are gifted and talented? Or, do you have experience but need a refresher? If either is the case, mastering the ABCs of Advocacy will help you! Preparation for advocating is essential, so take time to know the ABCs of Advocacy before getting started. Then, stick with your role as an advocate because children who are gifted and talented need you!
A is for Be Aware!
An effective advocate is aware of issues in general education as well as in gifted education. For example, consider the importance of the STEM areas (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in today’s global village. In Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future (2007), the National Academies argue:
This nation must prepare with great urgency to preserve its strategic and economic security. …the United States must compete by optimizing its knowledge-based resources, particularly in science and technology, and by sustaining the most fertile environment for new and revitalized industries and the well-paying jobs they bring.
In a world that has been flattened by technology, remaining competitive in STEM areas is paramount. By linking gifted education to the STEM areas, more ears will be open to what you have to say. After all, preparing gifted mathematicians, gifted scientists, gifted engineers, and gifted experts in technology provides the starting point for a bright economic future.
Advocates also must be aware of people who are key to the advocacy effort. Who are the decision-makers? Consider principals, superintendents, and school board members at the district level. Don’t neglect statewide educational leaders, which include state board of education members and the commissioner or superintendent of education. Think outside the local education arena to state decisionmakers. Target legislators, especially those on the education and appropriations committees. Leaders, such as Speaker of the House, Senate President, and Governor definitely make things happen. Also consider national decision-makers such as your senators and congressmen. National issues in gifted education demand their attention. They need to hear that providing for optimal learning opportunities for children who are gifted and talented is important to you. Just look at the Legislative Update on the NAGC Web site (http://www.nagc.org/index. aspx?id=585&al) for issues facing gifted education. By being aware of the decision-makers, you’re a better advocate.
Effective advocates also are aware of another group of people — kindred spirits. Know that numbers speak loudly to decision-makers, so be sure to flock together with others who share your concerns. Seek out parents of your child’s friends and classmates. Join your local, state, and national advocacy groups for gifted education. For a listing of state organization Web sites, see http://www.nagc.org/CMS400Min/index. aspx?id=609.The more numerous the voices, the better the message is heard. The way for an advocate’s message to be loud is to have many people saying the same thing.
This leads to another critical area — be aware of the importance of shaping your advocacy message. Once you’ve found cohorts, you must share a unified message. Be positive and make the message clear and easy to remember. Shaping the message around a school or district’s mission statement can be very effective when targeting the school or district. (See the June 2006 of PHP for the column “Effective Advocates: Craft Your Message” for more information and tips.) What you say is just as important as to whom you say it.
Awareness in the ABCs of Advocacy is the first step as an effective advocate.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Association for Gifted Children. ©2008 National Association for Gifted Children.
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