Channeling Challenges and Frustration To Legislation
Last August, Matt Clark was one of two E4E-Boston teachers who testified in front of the state legislature about the need to increase funding for social-emotional programs and supports for Boston students. In this interview, he talks with Outreach Director Lisa Lazare about what drew him to teaching and how advocating for school policies has energized his work in the classroom.
Lisa Lazare (LL): Why did you get into teaching?
Matt Clark (MC): I knew that I would not have been able to go to college and succeed in higher education if I didn't have really good teachers looking out for me, making sure I didn't mess up too badly. Also I wanted to support students to succeed in education.
LL: Why is it important for teachers to be knowledgeable about policy and get involved?
MC: In my experience, getting involved in policy and advocacy has removed a lot of my frustrations because when you see something that is not right or is inefficient you know you have the power and opportunity to fix the problem. Also, I believe that policy makers need to hear from the people who are affected by the policies they make.
LL: What types of advocacy actions have you taken with E4E?
MC: I have published an op-ed, lobbied state representatives on pending legislation, testified before the Joint Committee on Education, and participated in a Teacher Action Team to create an implementation guide to show Boston Public Schools how teachers want them to prioritize professional development on trauma-informed practices.
LL: How have these experiences impacted you as an educator?
MC: [Taking action on policies] has been more than just removing my frustrations around problems that our students and school communities face. Advocating for and connecting with others on those advocacy efforts gives me hope that positive change can happen and that I can be a part of that change.
LL: What has been your favorite action with E4E?
MC: My favorite thing has been the opportunity to connect with other educators who are positive, inspired, want to make a difference, and don't accept that this is the best we can give Boston students. I might be exhausted and drained after work, but when I go to the E4E meetings, I always leave feeling energized and inspired to get back into the classroom.
LL: What would you say to educators who feel they don't have time to advocate?
MC: You may not always see the benefits before you take the action. You might not realize all the power you have or all you are capable of doing. It is worth making that investment in time because there are so many benefits that you cannot predict in the future.