Tell Me About The Good

It has been a hellish week, this vacation week that so many of us in Massachusetts looked forward to. Today we are about and around in sunny, but unseasonably cool spring weather. The grass has finally decided to green up, daffodils feel safe poking up from the damp earth. Most of our routines have returned normally – things seem the same, but they are forever changed.

In New England we continue to feel pain. Words fail most of us. So we hug, we cry, we read – and some of us write, or at least try to do so.

Yes, the suspects – or at least the ones who seem directly connected by evidence – of this heinous atrocity seem to be either dead or locked up. But I defy any human not to think of the four victims of Marathon Monday’s bombing without an indelible sadness of 4 lives that were cut short too soon. Or the lives of those people who, simply by going outdoors on a fine April morning, now have the climb of a lifetime ahead of them. Will we ever feel safe again in a crowd?

Yesterday, a priest at St. Irene’s Church in Carlisle gave one of the most powerful homilies about evil and good that I have ever heard. At the end of his talk he read this Facebook posting from Cam Siciliano, which I quote here:

I don’t want to know his name. I don’t want to see his face. I don’t want to know his life’s history, his back-story, who his family is, where he went to school, or what he liked to do in his spare time. I don’t want to know what “cause”, if any, he was fighting for. I don’t want to know why he did it, or may have done it, or what possessed him to carry out his actions. I don’t want to know. Because that’s what he really wants. I’ll be damned if I’m going to give him what he wants.

Put him on trial, but don’t cover it. Tell me when you decide to jail him for three lifetimes – because that number matters. That’s the number of lives he has to now pay for. That’s all I want to know about him. Nothing else.

Instead, tell me about the first responders who ran towards the fray, within seconds, fearless. Tell me about the ones wearing the yellow volunteer jacket, or the neon police vest, or even the ones in the regular everyday t-shirt who became a helper. Tell me the story about the first responder who held gauze over a wound until they made it to the hospital. Tell me the story about the volunteer who held the hand of the injured spectator until they got into the ambulance. In six months, tell me the story of those who lost a limb, who beat the odds, pulled through countless surgeries, and are learning to walk again. Tell me the story about the love, the compassion, and the never-ending support of thousands, millions, of people who support the victims here. Tell me their stories. Tell me everything you can, because they are the ones that matter. Tell me of the good that they have done, are doing, and will continue to do, regardless of… No, not regardless of, in spite of. In spite of that someone who would do them harm. Because that’s what freedom in this country means. It means coming together in the hardest of times, even in the face of unfathomable adversity, to make life better for all those around us.

Tell me the good stories. That’s all I want to hear.

I know that at some point I need to learn about the two alleged perpetrators of this atrocity. If there is something that can be gleaned from their self-destructive path that will help the disenfranchised students that I often-times see, I will need to reflect on that. Maybe there is some connection that can be made, maybe not.

But for now, I too, need to hear about the good, the kind, the compassionate humans who rose above the evil that we have just experienced this past week. Don’t we all?

To My Congressional Representatives

I know that I have only one voice. But I have one, and I am determined to use it.

On the four month anniversary of Sandy Hook, we are reminded that nothing has been done to prevent yet another shooting of this nature.  Listen to the family members of the victims in this tragedy. They live the aftermath of our society’s inability to do something. 60 minutes 4-7-2013

Today, family members of the victims of this tragedy will be in Washington, DC. I implore our representatives in Congress to listen – do not rush by arrogantly and claim you are “all set” as one insensitive Connecticut representative does in the video.  Listen, listen to these people who will live with the aftermath of this tragedy for the rest of their days.

We cannot afford to be complacent, afraid of controversy, or stubbornly one-sided in these discussions. This is a complicated issues — along with gun control, we can no longer ignore those who face mental challenges, and yet, through stigma and misconception, are outcast from receiving meaningful help and assistance. We cannot allow, as the NRA has suggested, our schools to become armed bastions.

Something needs to change here. It’s not just Sandy Hook – violence impacts families and communities every day. Read, or at the very least, look at the graphic of mass shootings found this article from Mother Jones.

My own students sometimes come to class – third grade – with stories of guns going off in their neighborhood. They know the difference between a car backfiring and the sound of a gun. Is this the kind of childhood we want for our children?

Please contact your own congressional representatives.  I have.


Michelle Rhee and Students First

In the past week I’ve received two unsolicited email messages “signed” by Michelle Rhee on behalf of some group called “Students First”.  You know Michelle Rhee of “Waiting for superman…”, former chancellor of the DC schools. Queen of soundbites.

I’ll leave the blow-by-blow rebuttal of her craptastic plans for “improving” education (just send me $10 – are you kidding me?) for another post. Just suffice it to say I disagree vehemently with her hypothesis that everything wrong with public education today stems from professional educators, and more specifically professional educators who have been teaching for quite a while.

The first mail message was sent to my school/work address and thanked me for participation in the 6-word essay contest. Sorry, not me.  So the question is, since I have absolutely no interest in “joining with” Michelle Rhee to save our best teachers from those old experienced ones – like me? – how in the heck did she get my address. Please tell me that the Commonwealth did not sell teacher email addresses to this organization.

The second email with the subject heading “Working For Reform In Westford” was a real jolt. Now if I haven’t opted in to this organization’s email messages, I surely have not given out my HOME town. And frankly, working for reform in Westford — my hometown is an affluent suburb and routinely performs well on the state testing criteria – is a kind of puzzlement. Ms. Rhee, what exactly are you planning to “reform”, or should I say more accurately  what consulting services do you hope to sell?

What bothered me about this? Well, it is pretty creepy to get targeted email that you did not solicit. This is not exactly in the same league as browsing on a website for fashion and getting a bunch of pop ups on the side of a search page. How absolutely bush league this effort is – not exactly the accepted practice of most service marketing!

Michelle Rhee is a opportunist and she is selling something. She is not the answer to education’s ills. I’ll be keeping my ten dollars. Right in my wallet.