There are sometimes when you read something that’s so spot on, you just need to share it, and not try to re-word it yourself.
For me, this is one of those times.
I receive a monthly School PR newsletter in my email inbox called 1635, which is a reference to the year the first public school was formed in America. It is compiled by Shane Haggerty, Director of Marketing and Technology at Tolles Career and Technical Center in Plain City, OH. Shane also serves as Vice President for Communication Technology & Innovation on the National School Public Relations Board of Directors.
The column that stuck out to me in this month’s issue was written by Jim Cummings, Communications Director at Glendale Elementary School District in Arizona.
I just marked my two year work anniversary as Communications Director for Mineral Point Schools yesterday, and I felt this is the perfect time to share this because it sums up better than I ever could why I enjoy coming to work every day. The column is below:
“What’s in a hashtag? For every overused hashtag like #blessed out there, there are those with stronger meaning. I remember seeing Jim Cummings, APR,speak at the NSPRA National Seminar as he was getting ready to begin his term as president. What stood out was his passion, his bold commentary, and, of course, his call-to-action, #wefight. Anyone who follows Jim on social media knows he isn’t afraid to speak his mind and stand up for what is right, especially when it comes to education. Here is the story behind the bold call, #wefight.” – Shane Haggerty
Those who know me will not be surprised: #wefight started on the sports page.
A few years ago, in his first year as coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, Chip Kelly held a mid-week presser. He was asked about his team’s ability to comeback from a deep deficit in the previous week’s game.
“We’re from Philly,” he said. “We fight.”
That hit home for me — and not just because I’m an Eagles fan (and the misery of that is fodder for another day). It connected because I know that’s what school communicators do every day. #wefight on behalf of students and teachers, #wefight for parents, and #wefight for a public school system that, for reasons beyond my fathoming, society seems determined to denigrate — at its peril, and at ours.
I believe this deeply: as school communicators are the voice of our schools. We speak on behalf of gifted students and special needs kids; we speak for the empowered and disenfranchised; for the principal who struggles as the goalposts of student achievement are moved once again; and for teachers who spend all of their energy meeting the diverse needs of their students. I’ve believed for a long time, but now take it as almost an article of faith, that those of us who have chosen school public relations as a profession are the only thing that stands between a society that strives to provide a decent education for all of our kids and the great ocean of stupid that’s threatening to overtake our shores.
And that makes us fighters. We have to be if we truly wish to make the lives of our students and teachers better. And make no mistake: making their lives better is our job. It is our job to stand up and not just speak on behalf of our schools, but to do so loudly. We have to be willing to start the difficult conversations; the ones that make people uncomfortable; the ones that point out that what’s happening is the systematic destruction of our public education system. We have to be willing to call out legislation — and the people who introduce or pay for it — that are bad for schools and kids, and remind folks that those same policies are being promoted by individuals and groups who consider children commodities, and know nothing about the real business of education.
#wefight for so many reasons . . .
#wefight because we know the key to a strong community, a strong economy and a healthy nation starts in classrooms that are fully-equipped, with teachers that are well-paid, and systems that are properly funded.
#wefight because we know that a well-educated, well-informed population is the only way our democracy survives, thrives and grows.
#wefight because we know that what we do for a living makes a difference in the lives of kids and teachers, and makes the places we live better.
#wefight because we are the people who know how to best tell our stories and engage our communities.
#wefight because it is the right thing to do.
#wefight because if we don’t, who will?
For the last six years during my evaluation, my superintendent has looked me in the eye and told me that as far as he was concerned I had the best job in the school district. And he’s right. I am incredibly lucky. We are incredibly lucky. Each day we’re able to work in the one of the most rewarding professions in the world, one in which we get to show off the good things students and teachers do daily, and to reach out in a hundred different ways on their behalf to make sure that kids are given every opportunity possible to learn, and teachers the opportunity to teach in an environment where they are appreciated and valued. Not everyone gets to go into work every day knowing that what they do will improve the lives of children, and teachers, and make their communities stronger . . . but we do.
If that’s not worth fighting for, then I don’t know what is.
- Jim Cummings