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Be Represented

In my English courses I have students explore how to share their opinions in ways that make them more likely to be heard. We write to media outlets, individual reporters, and city, state, federal (and tribal if applicable) representatives. Students practice writing letters to the editor and strategies for making posts on social media. In the current political climate, people have a lot to say about what directly affects their lives, or the lives of those whom they care about. It’s more important than ever that we become effective communicators. In case you would like to participate in the discussions going on all around the country in various formats, I’m sharing some of the resources I use with my students and in my personal communications.

Contact your Reps:

Find your State Representatives, Senators & Contact info
Local Reps
Tribal Governments

Follow them on Twitter, subscribe to their newsletters. State and local reps don’t have a massive Twitter following, contacting them there means it’s likely they’ll see what you write.

Looking up Statutes and Proposed Legislation in MN:

Writing to the Media:

Media Contact List
FAIR Guide: How to Communicate with Journalists
Video: How to Communicate with Journalists
Media Activism Kit


  • Understand the person to whom you are writing. Know their history; their votes; their position on issues. These sites are very helpful in determining an elected official’s history with an issue: Ballotpedia (search for your rep to find all their public statements on issues), VoteSmart (Find out who funds them, their previous votes and positions on issues)
  • Keep it focused and relatively short. Most people don’t have time to read long letters.
  • Keep it to a single issue. If you have something to say about multiple issues then write multiple letters or make multiple calls.
  • Avoid using form letters. Some organizations will offer text for you to copy/paste or sign your name to. That doesn’t necessarily mean much to your representatives.
  • Keep it personal. Focus on ways that you are personally connected to the issues.
  • Be respectful.
  • Spellcheck, proofread, then do it again. In social media posts especially, people will attack your grammar or spelling if they can. It allows them to focus on that instead of your ideas. The appearance of being uneducated increases the likelihood that someone will write it off or attack your writing.
  • Build a small network who can help you strategize and bounce ideas off each other.
  • Format your letter properly.

Once you’re comfortable with contacting your representatives in writing or if writing is not your preferred means of communication, talk to them on the phone, set up meetings to talk in person. You’d be surprised at how much progress you can make once you make a connection with them. Remember, they’re our servants, not our leaders.

Gamifying the Resistance

In Education there used to be a lot of discussion about gamification and how we can take some of the principles of games and apply it to student engagement. Those kind of trends come in waves. It’s a lot of work for a teacher to do in isolation. I’ve always had it in the back of my mind and it hit me last night that this might be useful to all of the resistance movements going on around the country right now.

I want this to continue. I want to see the support for groups that have been traditionally excluded and ignored. I want to see people taking control and standing up for what is right. It gives me hope. I lost some of that hope last night when I watched Democrats from the House and Senate try to insert themselves into the resistance movement.

Gamifying what I think could give these groups a boost. Remember those annoying games that were so prevalent in the early days of Facebook? Kind of like that but productive and for a good cause.

Games are social and allow for competition. They allow people to share their progress and the work they’ve done. Here are some ideas:

  • Badges – people earn badges for completed tasks; volunteering, donating to socially responsible organizations; writing letters to their local, state, federal representatives or tribal elders (different badges for each); attending a rally or march; getting a friend involved; becoming a media watchdog; sharing content across social media platforms; showing up at a townhall; attending a city council or school board meeting; speaking at a city council or school board meeting; demonstrating support for an individual affected negatively by the administration’s policies; getting your homemade sign on TV; getting a letter to the editor published; starting a group or joining a discussion forum; etc. You get the idea…
  • Points – associate the above items with XP points based on difficulty and time spent.
  • Check-ins – checking in at events that others can see and associate points with that.

There are lots of gamification apps. I don’t know which ones would be right for this or if we need our own just for this. I would also like to see any groups using it tie their work to the Mozilla Open Badge Project so that users can keep their progress and share it across platforms. That kind of micro-credentialing could be useful to organizers to help demonstrate their effectiveness and build a resume for helping to continue this kind of work in organizations.

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Why Elected Democrats Don’t Get It

In the aftermath of the Women’s March on Washington we’ve seen unprecedented opposition to every action the President has taken over the last week and a half. Spontaneous protests across the country in a show of support for those affected by his reckless executive orders and cabinet selections demonstrates the actual will of the people. It will only grow as he tries to dismantle the Affordable Care Act; take away funding from Planned Parenthood and the Arts; eliminate a woman’s right to make the right choice for her and her family; and privatize our public school system. In addition to protests and marching, people are now learning that holding elected Democrats accountable to their votes and actions opposing this administration is a key component in making America safe.

Here’s the problem…

Last night I watched a sloppy production by the Democrats of the House and Senate. Something about it didn’t feel right. It seems as if they are trying to co-opt the movements going on around the country as if they somehow had something to do with it. They gave the same kind of speeches and paid the same lip service that they always do. I’m just not feeling it. They are not our allies…yet.

In his speech, How Great Leaders Inspire Action (viewed over 30 million times), Simon Sinek talks about the importance of shared belief and how that results in support and action. He lays out principles of innovation that lead to widespread adoption. He notes that Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t give the I Have a Plan speech. That’s exactly what the Democrats are still doing. I’m not particularly interested in their plans at this moment. I want to know what they believe that that they’re going to fight for and with the rest of us. I don’t care to hear any more words coming out of their mouths. I don’t want to see their interviews, I don’t want to hear their lists of accomplishments. All I want to see is coverage of them standing up for the principles that the masses are demanding.

We all know the difference between watching people speak at rallies from their hearts about a sincerely held belief and a polished politician. This is what they can’t quite seem to grasp. They waited for the crowed and then jumped in front with their microphones and bullhorns. I have never believed that politicians are our leaders; they are our servants. It’s time for them to serve.

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