It’s hard to believe that it’s already time to make plans for the 2021 NASSP Virtual Advocacy Conference. Maybe that is a function of time in this pandemic year—it seems to pass both slowly and quickly. While this pandemic year has been a long one, it seems like just yesterday that we scrambled to cancel travel plans for the 2020 event. Yet, here we are again, faced with the disappointment that we won’t be traveling to Washington, D.C., again this spring. 

One silver lining in this crisis, however, is that we can still be very effective with our advocacy efforts, even in a virtual format. At Association of Washington School Principals (AWSP), we have seen that it is even easier to gather principals and policymakers together in the same space. No one needs to spend time traveling, which allows for longer discussions that are more impactful. And, your choice of footwear is always comfortable.

So, why make time to attend this year’s virtual NASSP Virtual Advocacy Conference? Because you’ll come away with just-in-time information, connect with policymakers, expand your professional network, and continue to make a huge difference for students. My number one reason for attending is knowing that I’m not alone in this very complex work.

Throughout the pandemic, we have all shifted to online professional development for our students, teachers, and principals. I continue to make sure that I sign up for various webinars in order to keep up with the massive amount of information related to federal and state budget news, vaccination and health updates, effective instruction and leadership in remote environments, and countless other issues that I want to learn about in order to help support our members.

Each time I attend a virtual event, I walk away with something new. Attending this year’s 2021 NASSP Virtual Advocacy Conference will be the same. With newly elected President Joe Biden  and a new U.S. Secretary of Education in place soon, we will no doubt be getting very current information from NASSP related to policy and funding discussions at the federal level.

If you’re able to make appointments with your members of Congress and/or their staff, your voice will be critical for people who are experiencing the challenges of this pandemic on the ground, in buildings, and with students. Even if you don’t have time to arrange Zoom meetings with members, an email to them with some succinct talking points will be a fantastic way to advocate on behalf of your profession and the students you serve.

Finally, even though we can’t be in person this year, there are still ways to connect with others at a virtual conference. I find that meeting new people or connecting names to faces helps expand my professional network. When we have our monthly NASSP meetings and hear that there is a similar issue in another state, it is great to be able to reach out to get more information or support from a colleague. And while connecting with people in person is what I’ll miss most about not being in Washington this spring, I still know that through my professional network, I’m not alone in this complex work.

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