Dust off that suit, get a haircut, buy some sweet new kicks, and sign up for this year’s SPEAK Out! Day. If you haven’t already made plans to join SHAPE America in Washington, DC on February 13th and 14th, sign up now and be a part of the work that is shaping our professions and students.
I have been to SPEAK Out! Day twice. Last year was a whirlwind trip from Oregon with only 18 hours spent in Washington, DC. I barely had time to shake the wrinkles out of my suit and brush my teeth before I was face-to-face with an Oregon senator. But it was such a valuable experience for me as a professional and representative of my students that I would do it again in a heartbeat!
I am a physical education teacher who realized three years ago that without local and national advocacy, my profession may one day cease to exist. We need to share with our lawmakers — what we know is fundamental to every student’s success — why effective health and physical education are so important. This national advocacy opportunity event is for every health and physical educator out there who loves and most importantly witnesses, the daily impact our subjects have on all aspects of our students’ lives.
Need more convincing? My top five reasons to attend:
5. You are actively doing work that has and will continue to shape our profession. You’re literally taking part in history.
4. The team at SHAPE America rocks this event. It is so well coordinated. You will head to Capitol Hill so well prepped that you’re truly able to focus on telling your personal stories of impact.
3. You’ll connect in-person with some of the most passionate and knowledgeable people in the professions, giving you a chance to pick at some of the best brains in our fields!
2. You will learn how to translate and navigate the ever-changing laws, mandates and policies that affect our professions both locally and nationally.
And my number one reason to attend
1. It’s a unique opportunity. You have a chance to share real-life stories of how health and PE improve the quality of life and health of your students with your national representatives. How often will you get this chance?
Last year a member of Congress from the state of Oregon was shocked to find out how little the students in her district were receiving PE. Without our Oregon health and physical educators taking the time to share our stories, this representative would not have known. We have a golden opportunity to build relationships with those who are making decisions at the national level. Washington, DC is a long way from home for our representatives. They want to make connections and hear the stories of the people who actually live in their state or district.
Your representatives are just that: Your representatives. They work for us. If you don’t not know who your representatives or senators are, you can find that information here. If you don’t know what they think about the subjects you teach and have invested your time, efforts and career in, this is the perfect chance to find out. If you have not called, emailed, dropped by their local office, or written a letter, do it today. Start building those relationships now, even before you come to Capitol Hill!
My colleagues and I sharing the benefits of our programs with Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-1)
SPEAK! Out Day changed my perspective as a teacher and gave me the tools necessary to make a positive change back home in Oregon. I can now see the opportunities each day as a professional to connect with my co-workers, parents and other stakeholders in my own community. I feel more comfortable discussing the current issues facing my program and I now have the experience and confidence to walk into a room full of the people making critical decisions about my program and share the positive correlations between physical activity and improvements in the classroom. My advocacy know-how and experience has also led to my active role on the district health committee that’s responsible for writing policy regarding physical activity, nutrition and health for my entire school district.
SPEAK Out! Day has opened doors for me and it will for you too. Register to join your colleagues in Washington, DC on February 13th and 14th. Think about it; if we don’t speak out for our students, then who will?
Want to learn more about my experience on the Hill? Connect with me here on Exchange or send me a tweet @brack_hassell.
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Photo 1: Adam Howell, Rachel Townsend and I present SPEAK Out! Day award to Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-1)