Let’s Talk ESP Blog: Finding Your Voice
By Gail Kablau
People who know me know that when I am passionate about something I’m not afraid to speak up. And I don’t give up easily when something doesn’t happen the way I want it to the first time. If it’s important, it’s worth trying different ways to get at it, until I am successful. Finding my voice was key in learning about successful tenacity. But it didn’t come to me naturally.
By nature, I am really an introvert, and those of you who are the same know how hard it is to put yourself out there when you really just want to be a fly on the wall. But I have had to fight for things all of my life, so I had to find my voice, push myself out of my comfort zone, and learn to speak up. I have found that the more I educate myself, the easier it is to speak up when it is necessary to do so. Because let’s get real – in our current divisive society, sometimes the best thing to do is to say nothing at all. And sometimes, it’s necessary to be the one voice speaking out when others do and say nothing.
Knowledge is power, and in order to be able to speak to power, we must be informed leaders, educators, citizens. When it comes to my work in the Union, as a leader I have looked for resources on all levels when advocating for members. There are so many avenues we can travel to get the information we need, not just as Union leaders, but also as general members. Here are a few examples of the roads we can travel together to elevate our voices.
In a couple of weeks, I will join about a dozen other Wisconsin Union members at the NEA ESP Conference, which is being held virtually this year, March 19-21. This is a great way to connect with ESP members throughout the country to share our successes and struggles, and bring back that knowledge to help members in our own Locals. I am also humbled and honored to have been nominated by WEAC for the NEA ESP of the Year, to represent Wisconsin at this year’s NEA ESP Conference. I will do my best to represent all of you there, because this is really about all of us, not about one individual person. I look forward to meeting other state’s nominees as a part of that program.
WEAC is holding its own ESP Drive-In Virtual Conference on April 17th, organized by the WEAC ESP Committee. I am really excited about it, because it gives us an opportunity to meet as a Statewide support staff community to learn from each other, and there will be content available for everyone, no matter what position you hold. Watch for details and the sign-up coming out soon. Kudos to our representatives from across the State on this committee for their time in coordinating an opportunity for us to gain new knowledge to take back to our Districts.
We also have an important opportunity to represent our Locals and bring support staff voice to our statewide organization by serving as a delegate to the WEAC Representative Assembly (RA) April 23-24, held virtually this year. I will be there to cast my votes for all of you on a State level, but your Local voices must also be there. In recent years, the number of support professionals allowed VS the number who have attended have dwindled. The WEAC RA is when all of our members come together to decide what the focus of our organization will be into the next year – not only in principle, but also allocating the resources needed to fund necessary programming and advocacy work. Education Support Professionals voices must be in that room. Make sure that your Local is electing full delegations to attend. If you don’t know how many delegates you are allowed, contact the WEAC office to get more information at firstname.lastname@example.org. By serving as a delegate you will have a better understanding of how our State organization works, and how our dues dollars are spent – that will come in handy the next time someone asks you what their dues dollars pay for. Elect your delegates and bring your voices. I hope to see you there.
I have also been speaking out lately to bring awareness to those who are seeking knowledge about the upcoming April 6th election, and the candidates running for key positions that will affect us all in education – the State Superintendent for Public Instruction and School Board candidates. As a citizen, using my voice at the ballot box is the most important thing I can do. I don’t do it because I’m “patriotic” – I do it because to not do it means that I have no voice, no opinion, or don’t care about the people elected, or referendums passed, that will affect my daily life or my way of life. Find out who is on your ballot, and use your voice either by mailing it in, dropping it off, or going to your polling place the day of the election. Who gets elected to your School Board will have a direct impact on your daily professional life. The candidate elected to the State Superintendent position will affect all of us in education. I am so pleased that WEAC is endorsing Dr. Jill Underly for this position. I have had the occasion to meet her (virtually) several times – she was my top pick the first time I met her, and remains my top pick, because she has what it takes to move us forward after what has been an incredibly difficult 10-years since Act 10, and now in the last year of the pandemic. I will use my voice from now through the April 6th election day, because I have done my homework, and am working hard to get an A on that assignment when she wins the election.
Gaining the knowledge you need to be able to use your voice in a meaningful and impactful way is how we navigate successfully through our lives. When you use your voice, it shows others around you that it’s important to use theirs. I choose to lift my voice and speak out when I see injustice, or when I know I can make a difference. What motivates you to lift your voice? Let’s Talk!
- WEAC ESP on the web
- Join the NEA ESP Facebook Group
- Follow @NEArESPect on Twitter
- Key Facts About ESPs
- Helping ESPs Cope Through SEL
Gail Kablau is the WEAC Education Support Professional (ESP)-at-Large Board Representative. Contact her at: email@example.com.