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Politics and the Classroom

This summer, I was part of a discussion in which someone said that their organization avoided politics—it wasn’t their thing. My immediate response was, “That’s impossible. All organizations are involved in politics in some way.” This was met by silence. It is a misconception to believe that the only thing you will do as an educator—whatever that role may be—is only your role without being involved in any sort of politics.

Yes! All organizations are involved in some sort of politics. The thing is, as educators, we must empower ourselves by familiarizing ourselves with the politics of education. I found that after I took a deep dive into the world of politics and policy studies, it helped to assuage me. It helps educators determine why things are happening, who was behind the changes that we see, how to react to the various changes that come our way, and how to predict what new changes may happen next.

I feel the need to preface by saying politics get a bum rap because we tend to avoid politics until they impact us in some way—often negatively. But, politics are not bad, and actually necessary for progress. Politics involves a variety of players, ranging from government officials, to teacher unions, to community activists. Without these people, change would never occur, things would become stagnant.

Now that that is done, the question is really: How do I navigate the politics of teaching? What the heck does that even mean???!!

Simply put, teaching is not simply coming to your classroom, teaching your students, grading papers, and going home, it is navigating your organization’s organizational structure and the various people involved in it.

#1: Know your organization’s organizational structure. There are many organizational structures (I’ve included a text below that goes into detail about them).  Determine which one your organization is modeled after.  It helps you begin to determine who is making decisions and what all everyone’s role is in that structure.  When you understand your role, you better understand how to navigate your path.  Do you want to change a policy?  Do you want to move to another department?  This will help you come up with a game plan.

#2: Sharpen your interpersonal skills! Get to know all of the various groups of people who form coalitions in your organization.  After you understand how it is structured and who is responsible for what, be sure to interact with as many people in those varying levels as possible.

#3: Learn about educational policy. Even though it may seem as if a new policy appeared magically, this is never the case.  Generally, things have been in the works for years before it reaches you.  Determine who the key stakeholders are involved in decision making this will help you better predict changes that may occur.

#4: Get involved! Be active in the happenings of your school. Check to see what organizations are in your school’s community, and check to see which organizations are involved in your school. Get to know those people, volunteer to work with some of those groups. You will find that by getting to know people and getting more involved, you will begin to understand why things are happening, and may even have a hand in how decisions are made.

All in all, politics in the classroom are unavoidable. As educators, we must educate ourselves about organizational structures and educational policy so that we can better navigate education. You’ll find that the more you know, the more empowered you will feel.

Interested in learning more???

By:  Frances Fowler

Interested in learning more about policy?  This book will help you navigate how decisions are made.

By:  Lee G. Bolman & Terrence E. Deal

Interesting in learning more about organizational structures and how to navigate them?  This book is an excellent resource!

Don't forget, if you want more information, you can visit my YouTube video on this topic or you can contact me via my website.

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