Michigan Fellow Matt McCullough shares his experience with the Michigan Educator Voice Fellowship and the America Achieves Fellowship for Teachers and Principals at the State Capitol in Lansing, and offers educators suggestions for becoming involved in policy. 

I may be speaking out of turn here as I'm not a Michigan legislator nor an employee of the Michigan Department of Education, but I can tell you my last visit to our State Capitol was ripe with opportunities to contribute to our educational environment here in Michigan.

My day started off with a trip to meet Michelle Ribant, the director of 21st Century Learning and Innovation at the Michigan Department of Education (Where can I sign up for the job next?). I was part of a team of educators who attended a session on the Michigan Technology plan for the next five years, which is still in the process of being created.  After a quick email from one of us, the whole team was invited to Ribant's office.  We had an amazingly productive meeting, and by the end were all invited to give formal input and be part of the committee process to build the State Technology plan. Michelle couldn't have been more welcoming, knowledgeable, and inspiring!

Next, after a stroll through the Capitol Building and some lunch, my day continued with a visit to my local Senator Dale Zorn.  Also a gracious host, I had the pleasure of meeting with him and two of his office staff as we discussed the finer points of school funding, limitations on schools and innovation due to policy, and his beloved grandchildren. Sen. Zorn even named me a member of his 'kitchen cabinet' on education, meaning he'd welcome help from me on topics affecting students and teachers.  Again, meeting with someone of his stature and influence in Lansing was as easy as sending a couple of emails and travelling to his office. 

My day of giving the movers and shakers of our State Capitol input came to a close with a final event. I was honored to be asked to moderate a Michigan Educator Voice Fellowship panel discussion with Michelle Fecteau, Secretary of the Michigan State Board of Education; Leah Breen, Professional Preparation and Certification Services, Michigan Department of Education; Annie Brown, School Board Trustee and Candidate for State Rep HD-66; and Jeff Bean, Placement Coordinator & Instructor at Ferris State University. 

I helped to create questions that focused on how current educators could be partner with all of their varied positionnd departments to better education in Michigan.  These professionals not only gave real time feedback, and suggestions for how everyone could get involved, they asked for direct contact anytime policy was being considered. Ms. Breen from the MDE let educators know they could become a part of a database of experts that are reached out to on topics specific to their skills.

Now at this point you might be saying, "Well this is you Matt, and I can't do this.  Not even sure if I'd be welcomed in these places.  Do I have time to set this up?"

Honestly, having a day like mine is a simple 3 step process:

1.  Research 'who' for 10 minutes - We all have 10 minutes.  Look up the answers to: who are the representatives in my area?  Who is in charge of my passion at the MDE?  Who controls what I do/don't like at the state or national level?  (Some of these questions are hyperlinked to get you started).

2.  Ask to meet - All of my opportunities simply came by way of a face to face or email request to meet and speak.  Nothing fancy.  Nothing special.  Just a simple, "May we meet to discuss..." followed with a sincere thank you.

3.  Be prepared - This may exceed the 10 minutes from earlier, but not by much.  Find your nice dress clothes (2 minutes), take a shower (10 minutes), look up the person you are talking to and skim their latest endeavors (10 minutes +), jot down a few of your ideas on their current topics (5 minutes).  

See?  It can be done.  I'd love to hear how your productive visit goes in the comments below!

Originally posted on Matt McCullough's personal website