Hacking Shared Values…My Reflections on Week One – Legislative post by UEA Policy Ambassador Aaron Webb

Legislative report submitted by UEA Policy Ambassador Aaron Webb, teacher at Parley’s Park Elementary School in Park City School District

What do I care about? I care about education and believe it is just and fair that a free and appropriate education is a property right afforded to all citizens and residents.

Armed with my just cause, I opened my laptop, steered to le.utah.gov and found the Senate Education Committee’s page. After a few more clicks I was able to access an audio recording of the first meeting of the 2021 Utah Legislative Session. A few formalities and friendly greetings ensued, then Sen. Todd Weiler introduced two bills: one, a no-brainer, allowing veterans to audit college courses; the other, what I saw as a brazen attempt to shift funds away from public schools as a punishment for staying remote during the fall, SB107: In-Person Instruction Prioritization. Vouchers, by any other name.

What do I believe? I believe that education is the “silver bullet,” the great equalizer, and the vehicle for societal progression and transformation. I believe the world can be made better through better schools. How could anyone feel differently?

There was no doubt in everyone’s minds — teaching and learning remotely has strained the system and put the mental health and academic success of many adolescents in jeopardy. The majority of the committee members and a few members of the public shared familiar stories of personal struggle. Many parents demanded an in-person option in Salt Lake City School District, and being offered none until recently, turned to their elected representatives. Sen. Kathleen Riebe and Sen. Derek Kitchen offered sympathy and understanding, but dissented, expressing many of the concerns I was feeling while listening to the meeting. Principal among these was the fact that shifting funds from one LEA to another (or to a private school) would do nothing to help already-marginalized students who could not afford expensive tuition prices (even if offset by those funds) or have the time or resources to get across town to another school.

What are my personal top-tier, core values? Growth and empathy, right?

In Dare to Lead, Brené Brown presents a list of values. It is a challenging exercise to whittle the list down to several key values, let alone one or two that feel directly tied to your personality and purpose. As I was listening to the committee and bill sponsor address the concerns, I realized that they too were operating from their own set of personal values. They too felt the importance of education. They too felt empathy for their constituents. They too felt the charge to respond to challenges and make the situation better.

I then realized, in order to be an effective messenger for my cause and my beliefs, I must be an effective messenger of my values. Through education and experience I have developed a worthwhile perspective and level of expertise, but to communicate my arguments and experiences effectively, I must know what my core values are and be able to articulate them.

Join me in a commitment to the discovery and exploitation of our shared values. I would like to see every elected official, every educator and every citizen take Brené’s inventory of values. Short of this, perhaps we should simply ask – and gently, constantly remind one another.