If you don’t have time to…

I remember what it was like to have a full-time job and two kids, with no extra time to keep up with the news. I was then and continue to be cynical about government and the integrity of politicians. Yet over the years I’ve discovered that nearly every aspect of my life is decided by elected officials besides the President.

That’s why, even though this coming election doesn’t have the excitement of a presidential year, it’s as important. Here are issues I consider most important as we approach the 2014 election:

1) Clean air to breath and clear water to drink. Yet many legislators oppose efforts to prevent oil-fired power plants from emitting dangerous toxins into the air. Regulations, they say, cost jobs.

2) A safe food supply and access to basic medical care. Yet many legislators keep calling for the repeal of Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and try to weaken the power of the FDA and the Department of Agriculture.

3) A fair wage for the work people do, including equal pay for women. Many people work two or three jobs to provide their family with basics. Yet some candidates continue to oppose a higher minimum wage. (Beware of those who in the past week announced they are for a minimum wage increase—after learning much of the public favors it.)

4) A solid education that will allow children to become leaders in ingenuity and production. Yet pledges not to increase taxes are forcing teacher layoffs, denying schools the resources they need for effective teaching, and increasing class size.

I urge you to vote. If you haven’t had time to keep up, google to learn the endorsements of organizations who share your values. Examples include Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, local chapters of the American Bar Association

2014 voting made easy (well, at least easier)

The future of our environment, educational systems, gay marriage, and women’s health is decided by people we elect. The list of offices to be filled is long, overwhelming when it comes to deciding who to vote for.

The internet has made it easier to cast an informed ballot. Here are a few suggestions.

1)  First, be sure what district you live in and the voting location. This can usually be done by Googling “voter guide” for your state. Remember, it may be easier to cast an absentee ballot. The League of Women Voters also lists rules. For example, in North Carolina you do NOT need a photo ID this time, but you will the next.

2)  Find the website of an organization that shares your primary concerns. Many organizations, such as the Missouri NEA (National Educational Association) endorse candidates.

environment: http://content.sierraclub.org/voterguide/endorsements. Most endorsements are listed by states.

women’s reproductive rights endorsements: google that or “Planned Parenthood Endorsements” and locate your state or region.

education endorsements 2014: state teachers unions or organizations often keep track of who is education friendly.

workers’ rights , workplace safety, consumer protection: google “aflcio endorsements,” then find your state.

3)  I find it especially hard to decide what judges to vote for. They make a lot of      important decisions, though. State Bar associations, while not endorsing judges, do evaluate their professionalism. Again, some special interest groups, such as LGBT lawyers or Hispanic lawyers, make endorsements.

4)  The following sites are for North Carolina, but each state has similar resources that are easy to find.
If you are concerned about equal rights for gays and lesbians, go to:   http://equalitync.org/pac/voterguide2014/index.html

If you are concerned about jobs, workplace safety, workers’ rights: aflcionc.org

Voting isn’t just a privilege. It’s one of the few tools you have for deciding the country’s future.

The Day Kennedy was Shot

On the same day newscasters were asking “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” I got a message from the past on Linked In: “Did you teach at B’water Elementary School 50 years ago?” It was from one of my students the first year I taught: Cecille.

In the week leading up to the anniversary of the Kennedy assassination I’d been thinking about that year. Feeling guilt ridden. It was the first year I taught. I’d been trained to teach high school history, but the only job I could find was working with fifth graders. I knew nothing about reading or math instruction. To make matters worse, I had a class of thirty-six ten-year-olds.

I sent the “bad boys” to the principal’s office. I didn’t know what to do for those who couldn’t read except plug them into phonics workbooks, again and again covering rules about short and long a’s, consonant blends. I doubt that they read any better on the last day of the year than they had on the first.

Thinking back on the events of November 22, 1962, I also was thinking, given what I now know about children’s need to talk about traumatic events, that I’d let my class down in the days following the assassination. I don’t recall discussing it with them.

My memory is that on that Friday afternoon, a few minutes before school was dismissed, our class Student Council representative returned to the room and said, “The President’s been shot.”

In my mind, it couldn’t be. “I doubt that,” I said. “Let’s not worry.” School let out a few minutes later and all the kids went home.

But Cecille wrote that she remembers that afternoon differently. She says that as one in the last group to board buses each day, she was still in the room when the janitor came by and told me, “The President has died.” Cecille says I cried and that for her my crying turned out to be an important lesson in compassion: how important people are, even if we don’t have personal connections to them.

Her memory is a reminder of how attuned children are to adults’ emotions. A father who’s angry at his boss, a mother upset over a marital quarrel, a teacher who cries over the death of the President. We must not assume that because they are young, children are oblivious to our feelings. As Cecille demonstrates, a child’s observation and the message she gleans from it can last a lifetime.