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It’s Time To Use Your Teacher Voice

Nicole Wolff Education, Education Policy, Life in the Classroom

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Is there something someone can do?

In the last several months I’ve had conversations with numerous educators about various concerns related to this school year. From lost prep times and lunch breaks to lack of safety protocols to inadequate leave policies.

Each conversation typically ends with a question along the lines of Is there something someone can do?

Teachers are peacekeepers, rule-followers, and nurturers and admittedly sometimes we do those things so well we inadvertently portray ourselves as martyrs. This image requires us to quietly endure being overworked, underpaid, and disrespected for the sake of the students whom we teach.

So when we encounter circumstances and conditions that are excruciatingly unbearable, we look for someone else to use their voice and make some noise. After all, voicing displeasure and demanding change for ourselves and our students would violate the image of the perpetually sacrificing teacher. You know,  the one whose only calling is to selflessly serve with no regard for self.

Advocating for anything, even our students, is hard. It requires vulnerability and risk. As teachers, advocating for ourselves is even harder because it makes us feel selfish. Like we aren’t living up to the image of the superhero teacher willing to forfeit their entire identity to the future of every student who enters our classrooms.

But, when we are looking for an answer to the question Is there something someone can do, I have an uncomfortable truth. The answer is yes, there is. It’s you. And it’s your colleague. And it’s me. It’s us. We are the someone.

Who better knows what it’s like to lose your prep periods and lunch breaks?

Who better knows what it’s like to plan for another class when you barely have time to plan for your own?

Who better knows what it’s like to have a never-ending stream of additional responsibilities with no additional time, support or compensation?

Who better knows what it’s like to have unrealistic expectations placed on your students who are still emotionally recovering from the last 2 years?

The answer is no one. No one knows better about these challenges than the educators leading the classrooms. Therefore, we must be the ones to advocate for ourselves, our profession, and our students. Our stories must be told. If we don’t tell them ourselves, someone else will and we probably won’t like how they tell it.

So as uncomfortable and intimidating as it is to creep into the world of advocacy, it’s time. The teacher as superhero facade isn’t working anymore (as evidenced by the mass exodus from the profession). This means the students we serve will ultimately suffer.

It’s time to use our teacher voice.

What’s the best way to begin when you’re nervous and unsure how to proceed? My suggestion to educators is to start small and in the least intimidating context. That might look different for different people.

For some, that might mean they begin talking to friends and family about the challenges educators are facing and offer suggestions for how they can support (contacting school boards, emailing lawmakers, voting for pro-public education candidates).

For others, the best first step might be to use their voice at school or district meetings. This might look like identifying a problem and offering potential solutions.

To those who might feel more comfortable advocating using technology, your social media accounts are a great tool for using your teacher voice. Social media can be used to share information, research, and articles related to current issues in education.

I am not an expert on advocacy. I’m just a passionate educator who occasionally likes to rock the boat on behalf of my colleagues and students. Fortunately, if you want to know more about how to begin engaging in advocacy, a group of people with far more expertise created some valuable resources to help you dip your toe in the advocacy waters.

Begin by listening to Season 10 Episode 13 of 3Ps in a Pod. Angelia Ebner from AzK12 Center hosts the podcast. The guests are educator and advocate Kristin Roberts and representatives from Maricopa County School Superintendent’s Office. They explain the importance of elevating teacher voice at the school, district, and state levels and offer advice and support for getting started.

The podcast is likely to provide the motivation you need to get engaged. After listening, dig into the Engagement Toolkit on the AzK12 site. You will find incredible resources meant to inform you on topics central to the efficacy of education advocacy: decision-making, funding, and storytelling.

Being an education advocate is legitimately terrifying. It requires us to step out of our comfort zones and assume a more assertive role than we are accustomed to. However, the changing landscape of the education world calls for teachers to get more engaged in the decisions being made.

No one is better equipped to speak to the needs of teachers and students than the educators in the trenches. It’s time for us to do the speaking.

It’s time for us to use our teacher voice.


I'm a California native. However, I've spent my entire career teaching in Arizona public schools, as well as instructing at the university level. My passion for teacher advocacy and support led me to become an Instructional Coach in 2013. I am currently a coach at a K-8 school in Goodyear and love the students and teachers I get to work with every day. I have spent my career actively involved in instructional improvement, chairing many committees including Response to Intervention, Academic Accountability, and Professional Development Committees. I was named Dysart Hero (teacher of the year) in 2012. I was honored to serve as a 2017-18 Arizona Hope Street Teacher Fellow. I earned a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education and a Master’s in Education/ESL from Ottawa University. I am a National Board Certified Teacher. I’m also endorsed as an Early Childhood Specialist, Reading Specialist, and Gifted Specialist. In my free time, I enjoy reading, camping, and spending time with my family.

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