“Run, Hide (Barricade), Fight.”

active shooter

Reflections from an active shooter training — analysis and therapy.

“Mom, it is like this happens every week.”

“Mommy, we hid in our cubbies today.”

My oldest child, the author of the first quote is astute; my younger child, the author of the latter, more innocent. Both, however, have learned that the world is violent; that their schools might be locations of a mass shooting.

The date is November 7, 2017. Election day. Schools in Onondaga County were not opened for students. Instead, districts offered professional development to teachers to avoid student exposure to strangers entering their schools as polling places.The day before, the high school where I teach administered the first lockdown drill of the school year.

Instructional time has been forfeited for safety training.

This post is my reflection of three hours spent receiving Level 1: Active Shooter Training (there are four levels). This reflection is part analysis, part therapy.


The presentation was well organized and polished. The speakers were clear and often humorous. I could tell that they believed in their work and in their mission to help empower educators to keep their schools safer.

They were men who had law enforcement and military training. Two of them wore shirts that read: “Know Fear.” They also surveyed the audience of teachers for former military and police in attendance. This was followed by a suggested round of applause.

They did not need to offer evidence of the vulnerability of schools, we all were acutely aware, but the presenters had plenty of statistics. These noted incidents, both old and fresh, carry their own influence of place, time, and level of carnage. Columbine, 1999, 13 dead. Sandy Hook, 2012, 26 dead. The names of these schools synonymous with America’s dirty truth: we are in deep, deep cultural trouble.


I cried so much that my sweater was covered in tears. It was horrible, and it was only Level 1.

My first tears fell when the presenter asked us to recall the worst thing we have personally witnessed. Then, they asked for people to share out! Hearing my colleagues share horrible traffic accidents was gruesome. The recall of trauma literally triggered some of my co-workers. I grew angry. Was this a necessary part of the training? I began to wonder if the training, itself, was necessary.

Were these presenters selling fear? Does this company profit from our national distress?

Before entering the auditorium, one of my colleagues questioned the need for the training. This teacher stated that schools are still the safest places. I questioned him, and asked how he knew we would always be safe? I told him that one never knew what might happen. After the training, another teacher stated that it was difficult but necessary. I wondered aloud, saying: “I am not sure it was.”

Will the training change my response in a time of stress and fear? I already have a plan in my head, will I be able to follow that plan? I cannot predict my true reaction.

Although the trainers told us that we are the first responders, I don’t fucking want to be. I don’t want to huddle in the corner with other people’s children. I don’t want to take a bullet for your baby. I will, but I don’t want to — I do not even want to think about it.

Furthermore, the trainers told us not to tell our students the specifics of our training. They informed us that if we told the students we might be empowering a future shooter in our classroom. Trust no one. Protect all.

The enemy is in our midst.

Then, they played the Diane Sawyer interview of the young Sandy Hook teacher who saved her kids by securing them in the bathroom for hours. I cried so hard, snot formed. From that point on, I could not contain my sadness.

Working in a school is weird, the building itself becomes exceptionally familiar. I have misspoken many times and called school the word home. Schools are like homes — the best schools, like homes, are open, nurturing and inclusive. Schools are “safe, gun-free” zones offering students with diverse needs, religions, races, and backgrounds routine and security.

But, schools are no longer sacred places where violence is uncommon. Instead, schools highlight societal ills. America is very sick. We have a disease and fear is helping it spread. With every mass shooting gun purchases increase. With every incident, well-meaning people, like the active shooter trainers, look for solutions. However, I fear that active shooter training for educators is just a band-aid on a gaping, oozing wound.

Processing active shooter training is tasking. I asked my husband, a concealed-carry permit holder if he was glad that I had the training. He understood my emotion, but he said,” If you are confronted by a situation, the training might kick in. You have to be unemotional in that regard. There is no place for feelings in a crisis.” I understand my husband’s words. I have always been really good in a crisis — calm and productive. It has always been the aftermath of incidents that get me feeling like I can empathize with people suffering post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Overall, I am not sure if I would recommend active shooter training. I feel raw. I feel grief. Maybe, at age forty-four, I am mourning the loss of my ability to live in denial.

Ultimately, our students are learning new vocabulary. Silence. Assailant. Lock-down. Active-Shooter — these are the 21st Century terms that students are truly internalizing.

I just hope that I never need to be “good” in an active shooter situation, and I wish we could cure our national disease because it is killing our children — physically and emotionally.


The Great American Witch Hunt

The story of Mrs. G, a modern witch in sensible shoes.

Mrs. G rises from her desk, crosses the room, and forcefully grabs a tissue from the box, part of the bulk pack she purchased with her own funds before that first September paycheck arrived.

She hates herself for getting upset. She should be nonplussed. She is a veteran teacher after all. She has handled aggressive parents many times. There was that executive who asked her and her colleagues which colleges they had attended, smugly stating: “Probably you all went to SUNY.” Or that other parent who told her she was squashing her son’s spirit because Mrs. G had the audacity to ask him not to save his loud, smelly farts for her class. The same boy who refused to raise his hand and constantly interrupted her well-planned lessons. Or that dad who pecked at her every time that her online grade-book was not updated.

This accusation is different, however. It is not about an overindulged child or an arrogant adult. This parental/student complaint is about her teaching. Her integrity is questioned. Her core beliefs as a historian, social scientist, educator, and as a woman are challenged.

She is guilty until she proves her innocence. And, then, even then, this incident will leave a mark, a stain on her solid reputation. She cannot win. She will never be perceived by this parent as anything else but one of those “teachers” no matter what she says. She will teach all year wondering if her words are offensive. She will doubt herself. She will lose her power, her voice, her excellence.

The administrator, who must be at least ten years her junior, explains the parental complaint. The issue is that the student feels uncomfortable in her class. Why? Because, according to the student she is talking about gender, women, and feminism too much. Also, when she teaches about political issues she is only showing one side.

Really? She had a male neo-Nazi in her class last year who proudly wore his MAGA gear and she gave him a platform in her class to discuss issues. She had a female student in her class last year who had the comfort to discuss her intense support for Trump and her happiness on his inauguration day. She had a former student discuss with her how he felt isolated by his support of President Trump among his more liberal-leaning classmates.

But, that was last school year. Now is the time that matters. What have you done lately, Mrs. G? How have you shown both sides of feminism this school year? (As if there are two sides to human rights?) How have you been objective? Which universal truths have you dismissed? How dare you indoctrinate my son or daughter in your elitist, feminist, witchy ways?

She has had a career of positivity. The negative interactions with students and parents minimum, the praise high. Is this the new brave world? Is this new, unfounded accusation part of a trend to discredit certain teachers?

This is a form of torture. She will not be told the student’s identity. The parent will not meet with her. The complaints are vague. This family wants her to consider both sides in her teaching. The student feels uncomfortable.

What is uncomfortable about learning about a maximum number of six women in world history during the entire year? The remainder of the year focuses on men, mostly white men. What is uncomfortable about a teacher talking about political and current topics as they relate to history? Does the student know both sides of every issue discussed, and if not, how can this adolescent determine if multiple perspectives have been integrated?

The claim of discomfort is extremely important to this teacher. But, she is also confused by the generic description. The word discomfort smacks of intimidation and fear. Mrs. G does not recall any discussion of controversial issues in the first six weeks of school. Again, this isn’t last year. Last year brought uncomfortable issues daily, many of which Mrs. G tried to either navigate or pushed aside when students brought up topics, with the line: “Unfortunately, we don’t have time for current events today.”

This year had seemed more like an acceptance of disagreement. A consensus that these are difficult times. An agreement that the unpredictable is the new norm.

So, the complaint against Mrs. G, with such vague and inaccurate claims, seems out of left field, even to a veteran teacher such as herself. What exactly is she to do with this knowledge, and the lack of pertinent information? She can guess who the child is, but she might be wrong. She can continue teaching the curriculum as she has always done but she runs the risks of being accused again. There is no solution.

She has been accused, labeled, and now she is suspect.

Ironically, her senior level history class is discussing the European witch hunts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Mrs. G finds herself relating to those convicted women — women who were powerless, lacking male protection, and holding ideas about the uses of medicinal plants. The documents that her senior-level students read include quotes from a court-appointed executioner in Eiger, Germany in 1607:

“There was no doubt she was a witch. She wore her hair short like a man, show wore the clothes of a man…”

That famous religious reformer, Martin Luther, writes about witches in another document dated 1522:

“Witches are the Devil’s whore, who suck his staff, steal milk, raise storms, bring illness and plagues and kill children in their cradles.”

As Mrs. G reads the college-level essays, she makes comparisons to trending issues. She thinks of the #MeToo, the nevertheless she persisted quote, and the “I am with her” line of support. She reflects on the Women’s March and the recent Women’s Convention in Detroit, Michigan. She analyzes how women’s access to contraception medicine is in jeopardy and how she may never see a female president in her lifetime. She wonders if she is one of those ‘nasty’ women?

76% of teachers are women.

Mrs. G wonders if she is a modern day witch?

And then she smiles, because if she is, she is in very good company.

#NOTYOUTWO Dear daughters: I hope you never have to write #MeToo.

Dear daughters: I hope you never have to write #MeToo.

Daughters: #MeToo is trending on social media. My first reaction when seeing that on Facebook was an adamant, loud: “No, not my daughters.” No, not them. World, you can’t have them. Men, you can’t grab them. My hopeful hashtag is #notyoutwo. Two, not too, because you two beautiful girls are my focus.

Daughters, you are only seven and twelve-years-old, entering crucial years of development. I am sure this will be an uncomfortable topic, but I am compelled to tell you my #MeToo tale with the sincere hope that sexual assault or discrimination is not part of your story.

Daughters, my wish for you both is that a boy like “D.S.” doesn’t grab you at “your” third base just because he thinks he can. I hope if a boy (he and I were only 11) does that unwanted thing to you, you won’t stay silent like your mother did. I hope you kick him, yell at him, shame him. How dare any person just grab another. Why did D.S. have the audacity to do such a thing to me at such a young age? How, in 1984, did he know he could grab me and be free from the consequences? Had he grabbed other girls before me? Was he emboldened to repeat this assault after he was free to do it to me? And why did I feel so worthless? Why did I stay silent?

Daughters, the President of the United States has been recorded saying that it is okay to grab a woman by their pussy, especially if like him you are a rich, famous man. Dear daughters, even that word “pussy” can be a derogative term. Don’t let anyone call your anatomy a negative term. Own that word for yourself; own your own body. Know that it is yours and not “his.”

Daughters, maybe the president’s words emboldened that young man at your school to grab that young woman’s private area. Remember how angry I became when you told me about that incident? Remember how I told you that it was criminal behavior? You giggled uncomfortably. I was serious.

Daughters, you might not even know the person who grabs you. I was twenty-one, in Rhode Island, at an outdoor restaurant ordering a drink when a young man grabbed me “there.” Again, I was in shock. I silently turned around and walked back to my table — never telling my family that I was just assaulted. Later, I would tell your father. I was ashamed. I rationalized it — he was probably drunk. I even thought about the short dress that I was wearing.

Daughters, intoxication, and attire, however, have nothing to do with sexual assault. Ironically, sex has little to do with sexual assault or rape. It is actually about power. When D.S., or that boy at your school, or that unknown drunk young man in Rhode Island grabbed a female by her genitals it was not about attraction. No, it was about their pleasure in their ability to dominate women. Their actions are symptoms of a larger cultural issue and a perennial problem of women being perceived in limited ways. The president of the United States was elected even though he said it was okay to assault women. He dismissed his recorded comments as “locker-room talk.” No, unfortunately, we have not come that far in terms of equality of the sexes.

Daughters: always recognize that no one has the right to touch you without your consent. Your consent can always, at any time, be revoked.

Daughters, if it that ubiquitous sexual harassment-discrimination-assault-rape does happen to you, know that it is not okay. And, if you are a victim of sexual discrimination, harassment, assault or rape, I want you to tell me. Silence is the rejection of your power. I will be your bullhorn and your audience. I will scream: not these two, not these two!

With love,


Dear Teachers: It’s October. We are in deep.

Dear Teachers:

Summer is a distant memory. It is now October.

You have survived the opening day jitters.

You have learned many students names.

You have planned and executed over five weeks of meticulously crafted lessons.

You have established classroom norms.

You have read many Individualized Education Plans (IEPs).

You have attended meetings and staff development days.

You have listened to district initiatives that you hope (or hope not) to implement this school year.

You have assessed your students’ gifts and challenges.

You have wrangled with classroom technology.

You have collaborated with your colleagues.

You have chaperoned events.

You have battled your first cold.

You have read a hundred emails.

You have graded papers and completed progress reports.

You have met many parents both informally and formally at that annual Back to School Night.

You is tired.

If, however, you are as energized as the first day of school, please tell me your secret. Sell me your magic pill. Because I am surviving with caffeine. If I could get it into my veins, I would.

October is a pivotal month. A month where fall turns to winter, the holidays loom, and the real work of teaching coincides with family issues and “real-world” drama. It is a time when our paychecks don’t stretch quite enough to dig us out of the credit card bills accrued in summer and we realize that our own children have no college funds.

October is the time of the school year where the real work of teaching begins. The honeymoon is over — kids and their teachers are no longer on their best behavior.

October is also the month we teachers choose to be the kind of teacher we want to be. So, what will you and I decide to do this year?

Will we reach back into that file and repeat what we did next year, or will we improve that unit or lesson?

Will we worry about the standardized test, or focus on the students taking those tests?

We will let our exhaustion and stress consume us, or we will recognize when we need to say “no,” or maybe even, God forbid, take a personal day?

Will we shut our door and teach, or will we reach out to our colleagues for collaboration?

Will we look out at our classroom as a collection of students, or will we try to see each of them as individuals?

We will allow those struggling learners to tread water, or will we throw them a lifeline?

Will we be open or closed?

Will we take risks or remain stagnant?

Luckily, we are not powerless. You and I can answer each of those questions listed above and dig deep into the art of teaching.

I am sure as I grapple with those tough questions, I will have a carafe of coffee nearby.

Good luck to us all.



My classroom is a dance floor: A lesson on student leadership, dedication, and taking chances.

Before the first meeting of the UMOJA-Step Team began, the team captain arrived at my classroom early and immediately pushed back all of my desks and chairs. I grew nervous. What the heck did I agree to do?

Last spring a student asked me to consider advising the UMOJA-Step Team at the high school where I teach. I had reservations. The team had a negative reputation and I am a busy mom. A few people told me that the team was drama filled, loud, and difficult to control. However, at every pep rally, the students in the bleachers look forward to the step team’s performance. The cheers for this crew are always thunderous and authentic.

That student’s request gnawed at me all summer. When the first faculty meeting of the school year revealed that the group still lacked an advisor, I decided, for many reasons, to give it a try.

Now it is September 14, 2017, and all of my desks and chairs are piled up in the back of my classroom. Twenty-five kids have entered my room, eager to be members of a group that puts the pep in the pep rallies. While listening to the team captains explain expectations, the other students devour the candy that I left out like a trusting house at Halloween.

The leaders, two young women of color, emphasize qualities that adults respect: promptness, dedication, and maintaining high grades. After laying down the law, the captain smiles and says: “We are a family.” Many kids nod their heads in agreement.

After the power point presentation, the students begin to dance. I now understand why the desks and chairs were moved — my classroom is a dance floor! I thought this was just an informational meeting, but these kids came to move — they are dancing with enthusiasm and delight. It reminds me of watching the television show F.A.M.E. When I was a kid I loved how the students on that show would spontaneously burst into song and dance. F.A.M.E. was happening in my high school! I was on F.A.M.E.!

Reality, however, entered in the form of the sweet school secretary who informed me that F.A.M.E. was disturbing a parent-conference going in the office next door. I apologized profusely.

At the end of that first, boisterous meeting, the team leaders made a circle where each student demonstrated their “moves” in the middle of my classroom. As I watched these young people, I began to realize that I was going to be a part of a rare and special group.

We moved the subsequent meetings to the cafeteria where, unfortunately, the kids needed to move the tables and chairs. The teardown and setting back up of the room ate into about ten minutes of precious rehearsal time. Not to mention the occasional squished grape that the students danced around.

Mostly, however, what I noticed about these rehearsals was an intensity of engagement with student-led participation. The pressure of performing for the entire student body in just a few weeks motivated them to practice, learn, adjust, practice, and repeat.

At the end of every rehearsal, I filled out twenty-five bus passes — these high school students do not have rides or cars like many of their high school peers — they must take the late bus home. The team includes mostly female students, most of whom are African-American. Three are white. There are a few young men sprinkled in the group, and they can move.

I teach in a suburban high school that houses over 1,800 students a day. The demographics are mostly working and middle-class households, over seventy-five percent Caucasian. The UMOJA-Step Team members flip that demographic. The word umoja means unity in Swahili and the team is both a cultural and performance group. February brings the celebration of Black History Month and a dinner for the school and community. Although African-American and Afro-Caribbean culture is highlighted, the group is inclusive of non-Afro students. If you have dedication, spirit, and talent, you can belong.

A former student, one of the student leaders, says: “You should dance with us, Momma Brown.”

I laugh and say: “Yeah, that is what you need, an old white woman to mess up your beautiful group.”

She laughs. I am serious. This is a student group.

As the first pep rally approaches, I begin to look forward to staying at school later. It is crazy, but in many ways, these dedicated dancers are renewing my teaching spirit. I adore them, especially the leaders.

Two weeks before the pep rally, the captain invites me to go bowling with the group. I felt so honored. I gave her my cell number in case plans changed. (I have never given a student my phone number.) I didn’t go bowling with the group, but I really wanted to. That pull between my own family and my school “kids” was difficult.

A week before the pep rally, I noticed a familiar frustration in the captain — she wants the team to get the dances perfect. She wants the UMOJA-STEP SQUAD to get the school crowd roaring. She feels the pressure. I tell her that I know her crazy — her statements and body language are reminiscent of mine the weeks before the New York State Global Regents Exam. Every June, I look at my classes, drill them constantly on their “moves,” encourage, scold, and prepare them to get the “best” grade they can earn. She is doing the same thing: she is showing them that perseverance breeds excellence. Her frequent refrain is, “Do it again.” She would make an outstanding educator. She has got “it.” You can’t teach that sort of with-it-ness. It shines off of this strong, young woman.

After the cafeteria is unavailable one day, the squad moves practice from the cafeteria to the auditorium commons, a large space that does not require the time of tearing down and setting back up of cafeteria tables. The open space in the commons allows other students to stop and watch the team practice. I enjoy these voyeur students’ expressions: they smile, they clap, they take video.

However, I wish the team could have a space of their own. I teach in a large building that is always busy, with the two gymnasiums and the auditorium reserved far in advance. What this team needs is a room with mirrors!

The captains want this year to be drama-free. They want a faculty advisor to stick around. They tell the members to bring problems to me. I act as their human boundary, happy to let the captains lead the dance. I am strong enough to handle the management of people. My role is one of organizer and advocate. This group, I repeat, is student-run.

By Thursday, October 5, 2017, the pep rally is only eight days away, and a long Columbus Day weekend interrupts the flow. Everyone is feeling tired, run-down. The student dancers have a poor first rehearsal on the field. The pressure mounts with only three more possible after-school practices. They are allowed only thirty minutes on the turf until the football players are suited up and ready to practice. Time is the enemy. The captains are worried, but I have faith in this group. I can see that they only need to tighten up a few moves.

On the eve of the pep rally, the team is a well-oiled machine. Their timing is on fleek! (My twelve-year-old gave me permission to use that term.) As they practice, I notice that they are truly enjoying themselves. I drive home smiling.

On the day of the pep rally, I wake with nervous excitement. I normally have very little enthusiasm for pep rally days — they make my teaching time shrink and the kids get off kilter. Typically, when I wear my school t-shirt, my husband (who thinks he is hilarious) will ask me:

“Did you bring it?”

I will respond with, “Bring what?”

He will say: “Team spirit.”

This day, however, I am actually bringing it. I am both excited and a little bit nervous for the Step Team. They are an amazing group of students, but there is also enormous pressure on them to perform at a high level.

At 12:45pm the athletes are dismissed, the lead captain, who the kids affectionally call “Grandma” instructs the dancers to meet her in the auditorium commons for one last run through before we take the field.

When I arrive, they are decked out in red shirts, black leggings, and red shoes. Those are not the school colors of orange and blue. The excitement is electric. The quickly rehearse their routine one, more time.

Walking to the stadium, I ask the kids why the color red. No one can tell me why red is important. We will need to discuss colors and their significance later.Today is not the day to discuss the future, it is a day for them to show off their hard work.

The students wait on the field for their turn in the pep rally, a group in red, in a sea of orange and blue. I tell them that they will perform near the end, joking that the best is saved for last.

When they perform, I feel like a proud parent. I didn’t choreograph the moves, or pick out the music, or act as a dance “coach.” All I did was make some meetings calendars and help organize the group. That is all that they needed.

We still have more to learn and prepare for: another pep rally in December and February’s Black History celebrations. There are still many questions to answer: Are they a dance team, a step team, or an African-American cultural team? What are the team’s colors? We need to discuss the group’s name and identity.

Right now, however, we are a happy group. Next week, we will celebrate with pizza in room 811 where my classroom might become a dance floor yet again.

You say you want a Constitutional Convention?

Be careful what you wish for, New York. Here are 10 reasons why a constitutional convention is not what New York residents (or any other Americans) actually want or need.

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world


You say you’ll change the constitution
Well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it’s the institution
Well, you know
You’d better free your mind instead

— Beatles, 1968

When I first heard about the opportunity for a New York State Constitutional Convention, I was excited. Social Studies teachers, of course, live for the democratic process. After an investigation, however, I have realized that voting no to a convention is the most important action in our current “democracy.”

I usually shy away from telling people how to vote. Heck, I just like when people vote. However, I feel compelled to notify my fellow New Yorkers the following reasons why they should go to the polls, flip over their ballot and fill in the “no” bubble on November 7, 2017. Yes, you read that correctly: you must flip the ballot over to vote “no” on this convention.

Although the following reasons for voting “no” on November 7, 2017, are not exhaustive, please allow me to boil down my research into ten digestible points:

1. The party hosts

The convention would be run by politicians financed by lobbyists.

The Rockefeller Institute really wants a convention. Hmm…Rockefellers? Are average New Yorkers really going to be well represented by the Rockefeller Institute?

Think deeply about what career politicians and their campaign financiers desire? Is their agenda comparable to what typical New Yorkers would need?

The following nine points would be on the bought-and-paid-for-politicians chopping block:

2. Pensions

Public employee pensions would be in peril. Police officers, firefighters, and teachers’ retirements would be in jeopardy. Let that sink in either personally or economically. If you are not a member or related to a person in one of those groups, please realize that New York’s economy would be severely hindered without the monies these professionals spend in their retirement.

A “NO” vote is a demonstration of support of our first responders and a group who are one of our children’s most important influences.

3. Grandma and Grandpa

Public monies for elder care, adult day care, and Medicare would all be on the chopping block. New York State elders are already limited in their options, often needing to be absolutely broke before receiving any financial assistance. Most of us will grow old. What size do we want the senior safety net to measure? In a time of deep cuts in budgets, where will elder care “fit” on the chopping block?

A “yes” vote disrespects a generation of people who have worked their entire lives, paid taxes to our state coffers, and who should not be reduced to eating cat food.

4. The Adirondacks

And the Catskills, too. “Forever Wild” designations could be changed to allow for development. Short term that might bring revenue, but Teddy Roosevelt appreciated that destroying our environmental heritage is never a long-term gain.

A “NO” vote is a statement in support of New York State’s beauty.

5. Right to Work

This is a confusing term. Sure, I want the right to work. However, it means the destruction of the rights of collective bargaining. Unions, although ineffective at times, are the only barrier between worker’s benefits and greed.

Trust me, New York, you do not want to be South Carolina!

6. Health Care

States decide how health care monies are allocated. This means local hospitals, ambulance services, medical research and Medicare dollars would all be at risk by a constitutional convention.

A “NO” vote is a vote for quality health care and access to hospitals across New York State.

7. Wasted Time

A year. It would take a full year to “elect’ the convention delegates. After these politicians are chosen, they would have an indefinite time to debate and discuss changes to the constitution.

Can we trust those elected officials to have integrity and punctuality?

No is the answer and is also why a “NO” vote on November 7, 2017, is so important.

8. Wasted Money

The last time a constitutional convention was convened was 1967, the cost was 47 million dollars! The estimated cost of a convention in today’s dollars is 350 million dollars!

Think about what could be changed with $350 million? What would be your personal wish list?

A “NO” vote is sending a message of fiscal responsibility.

9. Public Education

You want privatization and corporatization? Do you want an end to publically funded schools being a right of every citizen of the empire state? If, so, vote yes.

However, if you value public schools — one of the few things New York gets “right,” then vote NO! Education is a power reserved to the states. Advocates of charter and private school vouchers would use the opening of the state constitution as an opportunity to modify the rules to fill their own pocketbooks.

A “No” vote is an affirmation for public education.

10. Reform

Sure, reform is needed. So much is wrong in New York State. People have fled our great state in droves. Our roads and bridges need repair. Our schools need serious renovations. However true reform will not happen in a constitutional convention. Legislation and voter accountability of politicians is the path for needed reform.

No, changing the constitution is like opening Pandora’s box, and we all know that did not end well.

Links to Sources:

I hate Open House

Or, at least I did.

Since 1995, I have stood in front of my students’ parents twenty-two times. Usually, in late September or early October, I have watched adults navigate their child’s confusing daily schedule as they go through a “typical” rotation of their son or daughter’s school routine.

Typically, I get about ten minutes to convey my personality, teaching philosophy, expectations, and classroom routines. I also offer a glimpse at the history curriculum that I am responsible for teaching. The night always feels rushed and false. Teaching is part acting and Open House is like a movie trailer for a film the parents will never see.

Open House Night often leaves me feeling unsatisfied.

Maybe it is my age or my perspective as a parent, but last night I actually enjoyed Open House for the first time. The parents were funny, engaging, and most importantly, involved in their children’s lives. Of course, many parents could not or chose not to attend, that is the perennial issue with Open House: teachers often feel like they are preaching to the choir. The parental participants are the parents who don’t always need to meet me.

I remember pleading with my own mother to attend my own Back to School Nights. Not formally educated herself, the mother of a high achieving kid, she did not always see the point of wasting an evening at my school. However, even as a teenager I sensed that “good” parents attended school events, especially Open House. As a reflection of myself, I wanted my mom to be perceived as an involved parent. I wanted to fit into the suburban schools that I attended.

Now I work in a large, suburban school. The families have diverse resources and varying needs. Many parents work evening hours. Other parents do not see the benefit of a high school curriculum night — viewing their adolescent as an independent young adult.

Last night felt different. There were laughter and smiles. It felt like a community. I shook hands of parents for whom I had taught all of their children. I called those parents legacies. I told one father that I loved having siblings because in a big school familiarity breeds connections.

I was different too. In an attempt to liven up the ten-minute “show” I had previously photographed my students holding signs declaring the places in the world where they wanted to travel. I teach Global History and I desperately want to put a pin in my students’ small bubble of experience. I was able to make a short video of the pictures — telling the parents that the kids were hoping that they might get a trip out of their cute pictures. I loved watching the adult’s expressions as they anticipated seeing their baby’s face appear. No matter their age, they are always your baby.

Ultimately what I realized last night is that Open House is an opportunity for teachers to be ambassadors for the survival of public schools. I showed my parents last night that I was a hometown girl, listing only one private institution on a slide of images of the public high school and college that I attended and the two public schools for which I have been employed. I wanted my students’ parents to know that public schools promote excellence and are filled with enthusiastic, compassionate teachers.

My activism and the march for public education this past July has renewed my faith in public schools and has given me a sense of purpose. Open House, although nerve-wracking and incredibly flawed, is an opportunity for teachers to spread the “good” word of public education.

Maybe next year I will actually look forward to Open House.