My Role as an Advocate
READERS: Advocating for Montessori, early childhood, and a balanced and mixed delivery system has been an amazing journey. As part of my journey I am earning an MS in Early Childhood Studies with an emphasis in Public Policy and Advocacy and I am required to blog as part of my program. Below is a list of questions about my advocacy work that I have been asked to answer. It’s like an interview with myself!
- What motivated you to start advocating for very young children?
- I was sort of thrown into advocacy out of necessity when Montessori schools in Colorado came up against sudden and swift regulatory enforcement that rendered us unable to authentically carry out our curriculum in our preschool classrooms. It was necessary for me to come together with other school leaders and get legislation passed that would carve out a waivers and appeals process for our programs. We were successful in our efforts and I found that I really enjoyed the work. It just kept going from there.
Governor Hickenlooper signing our waiver bill into law (that’s me in the back on the right) the pink tower in in his office at the state capitol!
- Why is it essential to acknowledge and foster advocacy efforts at the micro as well as the macro level?
- Advocacy requires unified voices from many people because politicians pay attention to how many voters and constituents are affected by an issue. It is kind of like “Horton Hears a Who” in that the collective voices is what makes the big guy pay attention and listen. However, when it is time for them to listen it is the individuals who have personal, meaningful stories to tell that make the biggest impact. We need big groups powered by the work of individuals in order to have the most successful advocacy efforts possible.
- What does it take to be a community leader on early childhood issues?
- More than anything, a willingness to be open to many perspectives and include many people in your process. barreling in with an idea that is set in stone and perfect in your mind is a good way to ensure you alienate the very people you need on your team. Consensus is the only way anything gets done in advocacy. It also takes a heavy dose of patience, especially when working with elected officials. There are incredibly disheartening moments when party politics are clearly at play and it is obvious everyone has already made up their mind and nobody is going to listen. You have to just pick yourself up, learn some lessons, and keep pressing the issue in a way that you think might get them to listen. Over and over.
- What resources does it take to be a state leader on early childhood issues?
- As with just about everything, the two main resources required are time and money. Advocacy is rarely a paying job. The majority of the advocates I know (myself included) have jobs they work and volunteer their time as an advocate because they care. Advocacy also requires financial resources. A strong advocacy effort or group will need a website, social media, printed materials, gathering space, and a plethora of resources and incidental supplies.
- I’ve found that advocacy work is best done through a state advocacy organization. I volunteer my time at two state advocacy organizations. With small membership fees from many schools and/or individuals, a group can collect enough money to power advocacy efforts as they arise. One of the easiest ways that a busy early childhood professional can ensure that they are supporting early childhood advocacy is by joining a state or national organization that advocates for issues in a way that is aligned with their needs and beliefs.
- What tactics or strategies do you use to mobilize others?
- Sharing information through email and social media is the way to go these days. It is important to have a clear message that is crafted to help people see the reason why the issues at hand is meaningful to them and then provide them with simple ways to get involved.
- What advice would you give to someone who was interested in taking a leadership role in advocating for young children and their families?
- Start by joining up with local organizations that support issues that have meaning for you. Volunteer for an event or attend a community meeting offered via their membership emails. Also, take the time to go to www.votesmart.org and find your elected officials from city council on up through your US Senators and Representatives. Write to them and tell them about what you care about and what you think they can do to support young children and families. They will often respond personally, share a story, and invite you to attend a meeting or informational session about the issue if they know of one.
For more information on the state advocacy organizations I work with click here: