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Teachers gone viral: Webinar aims to help educators develop a media voice

Joanna Schimizzi, left, talks with teacher Julie McConnell at the 2014 MeckEd Teachers of Excellence event.
Joanna Schimizzi, left, talks with teacher Julie McConnell at the 2014 MeckEd Teachers of Excellence event. dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

Since I started covering education 15 years ago, I’ve had the conversation more times than I can count.

It starts with a teacher asking why I don’t quote more teachers. I agree there’s room for improvement, and ask that person if she or he would be willing to talk on the record.

If I’m lucky the answer is yes, but more often it’s no. Teachers care passionately about their work and want people to understand it better, but many fear repercussions for speaking out.

So when Joanna Schimizzi, one of the bold ones, suggested we talk about ways to help other educators find their voice, I was eager to hear her thoughts.

I met Schimizzi in 2012, when she was a Butler High science teacher who had just taken part in an NBC Education Summit. I watched her speak up in an array of forums after that, from news articles to public meetings. Most recently, she signed on with the North Carolina Teacher Voice Network, a Hope Street Group project that helps educators bring their personal insights to policy discussions.

She’s currently on maternity leave, and she had noticed that I recently launched a journalist page on Facebook. With social media playing an ever-growing role in digital news readership, I needed a forum to share education-related articles, studies, links and observations without spamming everyone on my personal page.

Schimizzi suggested that page could be used as a springboard for educators to share their experiences with each other and with outsiders who care about schools. I loved the idea.

We decided to do a webinar that would help others get started. For instance, just liking, sharing and commenting on articles can be a low-risk way to start influencing people. We’ll talk about strategies to boost the chances that people will understand and care about what you’re saying, ways to broach sensitive subjects in a constructive way and landmines you may want to avoid. (Spoiler alert: If I had all the answers I’d be getting rich as a consultant.)

If there’s interest, I’ll launch a regular “Facebook extra” feature with teacher-submitted questions and topics put out for general discussion.

So I hope some of you can join us at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 30, for an introduction to teacher voices in media. Log in at https://zoom.us/j/111591773 or call 646-558-8656 or 408-638-0968; the meeting ID is 111 591 773. Schimizzi is handling the technical end, so if you have questions about that, contact her at joanna.schimizzi@hsgfellow.org.

Ann Doss Helms: 704-358-5033, @anndosshelms

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