>Strategies: Building consensus or conflict

>I’m a mediator by nature. I keep plugging on, working for solutions. I’d rather look for commonalities than differences, and I’d rather build consensus than conflict.

That’s why I’m so frustrated by my current state leadership. Wisconsin’s state senate and assembly are not just dominated by one party, they’re ruled and controlled by the majority. Amendments suggested by the minority party are automatically rejected, discussion ignored, and the constituents of those districts end up unrepresented. Demonstrators are taking to the streets because they’re feeling unrepresented and they’re not feeling heard.
I’m a problem-solver. I want to see issues resolved and compromises reached. I know budget cuts are inevitable; we teachers have been working under budget cuts for years. We, like the teachers on Jeopardy, are fiscally as conservative as we can be.
Chuck and I noticed that the teachers on Jeopardy’s Teacher Tournament always bet conservatively in Final Jeopardy. Chuck suggested it’s because teachers are so accustomed to not spending money that given a chance, they’ll keep what little they have. In a Jeopardy tournament, that is a losing strategy.
If I keep teaching, I’ll continue doing more and more with less and less. I’ll keep writing grants, I’ll keep getting as much as I can for as little as possible. It gets harder and harder to educate children well while doing more with less while our schools are funded by people who believe in conflict, not consensus. And that, good people, is a losing strategy, too.

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>Election Reaction

>As soon as the polls closed, we had to turn off closed captioning so we could read the crawl showing vote totals. Hey, TV people, can you do something about that on an important night like election night? Hearing impaired adults vote, too.

Meanwhile, I had Twitter open and kept texting La Petite in the Madison area. She and Amigo voted absentee, knowing they’d be gone today. I’m proud that both of my children deemed voting important enough to request absentee ballots.
One ward in town ran out of ballots – not my neighborhood, but one much like it. Historic neighborhood, near downtown, politically active residents. Do these traits go together? In progressive Wisconsin, they do. My neighborhood polling place was busy this morning, and I’m sure it continued that way all day.
I’m an activist. If there’s a wrong, I try to right it. I’m also a peacemaker. I hate conflict, and our current administration seems to thrive on creating conflict. A balanced Supreme Court at the state level could help resolve some of the conflict. Here we are, late Wednesday morning, with the latest count showing a 300 vote gap between Supreme Court candidates and three districts yet to report – Lake Mills, WI and two Milwaukee precincts.
The country’s leaders are watching Wisconsin. No matter what the results, look at the closeness of the races and the voter turnout. United in our discontent, we went to the polls to ensure that our government at the state level remains of the people, by the people, and for the people.

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>Monday, Monday – a Historic Monday

>Tomorrow is election day.

Today is activist day. Notice I did not put the words activist day in capital letters; nothing formal or official comes with the title. Looking around my simple and limited life, however, I noticed there’s a lot going on.
I had two emails from our local OFA (Organizing for America) group – one with a calendar of events, one with information on how to help with recall efforts. There are a lot of angry voters in Wisconsin – on both red and blue sides.
I checked my school email. Yesterday was a Grade-In at the mall (I missed it – maybe I can make the next one). Today is a huge rally in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., and his tireless support for workers’ rights. Here’s a little information from an organizer.

On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in Memphis as he labored to bring economic justice and respect for 1,300 city sanitation workers.

On Monday — the anniversary of Dr. King’s death – the National Education Association and other labor unions, civil rights organizations, and religious leaders will stand together across this country for the same human rights and human dignity for working men and women.

On Monday, we will remind our elected officials that workers’ rights are human rights. These groups will host a range of community and workplace-focused actions across the country starting this weekend.

On Monday, remembering the courage and determination of Dr. King and those Memphis sanitation workers who endured assault and arrest as they walked a picket line for two months, we will stand together with public workers across this country whose bargaining rights are under attack, with private workers who can’t get bargaining rights, and against those politicians and their allies who want to silence our political voice.

On Monday, we will fight back against those who are trying to silence the voices of workers and the middle class in Wisconsin, Ohio, Idaho, Florida, Tennessee and countless other states. How will you stand up for workers on April 4?


Well, I’m blogging. And I’m Tweeting, and Plurking, and I might even post a notice on Facebook. I’ll continue to post worker history, both national and local, and I’ll get ready to vote. It’s an Activist Day – official or not, I think it’s earned its capitals.

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>What next? What’s next? Good day- Bad day

>It’s in the same family as the glass half full vs. the glass half empty. If I have a Bad Day, it’s often the kind of day with one piece of bad news after another falling my way and my coping skills failing. That’s the kind of day I ask, “Oh, no. What next?!” It’s the kind of feeling that has me wanting to curl up in a fetal position under a blanket and hide.

If I’m feeling decent, feeling like I can face at least a small part of the world, I’m more likely to ask, “Okay, I handled that. Now what’s next?”
Wisconsin workers are asking both questions. New Jersey teachers are joining the fray by asking their own governor to respect their workloads. Instead of a sit-in or protest rally, they brought their work out in public. They carried their schoolbags to the local mall and graded papers and wrote lesson plans, creating a new way to publicize teaching: the Grade-In. By creating a useful and productive way to show their work, they asked, “What’s next?”
Publicizing the importance of a job is one way to remind lawmakers that the work matters. I prepared a letter to the editor of our local paper reminding readers (and I hope, my lawmakers) that the union-busting could cost us federal grant money that would eliminate our local bus service. Did anyone in the State Senate or State Assembly realize this? Were they and the governor simply ignorant of the connection, or were they truly uncaring? My representative in the Assembly introduced an amendment that would have exempted transit systems from the law, allowing bus service to continue. In the partisan way, the Republican majority voted down every single amendment to the bill, including this one.
Amigo doesn’t drive. To get to work or to enroll in higher education, he will need the Transit System in our area. He is not alone; many people without cars or without the ability to drive need the buses to get them everywhere they need to go. Amigo’s reason? He’s blind.
I can’t be in Madison to protest because of my health. I can, however, write letters to my lawmakers and to the newspapers. One newspaper already contacted me for more information; now what’s next?! Get on board the bus and save public transit!

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>Will Walker Get on Board?

>I sent Chuck a link to this editorial reminding Wisconsin’s governor of deadlines to secure funding for Amtrak’s Hiawatha line that runs from Milwaukee to Chicago. This is NOT high-speed rail, the money Walker returned to the federal grant. This is the commuter line with ridership has doubled in the past eight years. It makes sense to apply, and apply ON TIME, for the money.

But when has Scott Walker made sense?
Here are Chuck’s top five reasons that Walker will not bother to apply for the transportation grant to improve the Hiawatha line.
5. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is a Democrat. Walker hates Democrats.
4. Tom Barrett is not just a Democrat – he was The Democrat Who Ran for Governor Against Walker. The petty governor will hold that against him forever.
3. Walker’s dislike of rail goes back before his refusal of high-speed rail development. In 2007, he used his position as Milwaukee County Executive to kill a light rail plan that would have complimented the city’s bus network.
2. Did I mention that Walker gave away the funding for high-speed rail that would have gone through Wisconsin, connecting Chicago, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis? Therefore, he has no reason to support upgrades for the link from Milwaukee to Chicago.
And now, the Number One Reason that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker will not apply to help fund the Hiawatha line:
1. Walker would never do anything that makes it easier for Democrats to get to Illinois.

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>In favor of Recycling Programs

>In my fair state of Wisconsin, recycling is required by law. Certain materials – you can guess: paper, glass, aluminum, and certain other recyclables – are no longer allowed in landfills.

  • Recycling programs provide 97,000 jobs in Wisconsin.
  • Recycling programs contribute $5.4 billion (yes, Billion) to Wisconsin’s economy.
  • 2 million tons of waste avoids landfills by getting recycled instead.
  • Wisconsin was the first state to pass laws mandating recycling.
Our new Governor doesn’t believe Wisconsin should remain at the top of the cycle. His new budget cuts state funding for recycling, but doesn’t change landfill laws. He thinks that eliminating recycling mandates and cutting funding to localities will balance the budget. Remember, these materials still can’t go in landfills. Does this make sense?
Gaylord Nelson, proud Wisconsinite and founder of Earth Day, would be appalled.
What’s next? I hope the governor doesn’t outlaw composting!
Facts and figures from the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters.

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>The world spins out of control

>Recovering from depression isn’t easy when the news is bad. It doesn’t help that I’m a news junkie, one who reads the print newspaper from cover to cover before turning on CNN. How can I feel like the glass is half full in a bad news world?

I’m starting week 7 of an 8 week online course. I’m feeling positive. My course work is going well, my grades are good, and I’m keeping up with the interim deadlines for the final work.
Good news: this course will certify me to teach online.
No longer good news: These credits would have been enough to allow me a lane change, a move on the pay scale.
Bad news: As soon as the current contract expires (in June), we no longer have steps and lanes on our salary scale. Spending my money in this way no longer has a financial incentive.
Glass half full philosophy: This opens up a new avenue for me, that of teaching online.
Glass half empty philosophy: what a waste! All this money! All this time! All this work!
Glass half full: At least work-related tuition is tax deductible.
Glass half empty: in 2012. And who knows what kind of changes may take place in the tax code?
Glass half full: I’m passing. Heck, I’m doing a stellar job! My grades are great!
Glass half empty: Who cares? Thanks to our governor, my time, money, and work are worthless.
Well, this is not working. I’ll never finish weeks 7 and 8 if I focus on the negative, the glass half empty ideal.
Maybe it’s as my engineer husband says. It’s not that the glass is half full or half empty; the glass is simply twice as large as it needs to be.
Rats. That didn’t help my spirits at all.

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>Mrs. Lerner’s Afterlife

>Let’s call her Mrs. Lerner, the teacher in this story. Mrs. Lerner passed away, and continued on her peaceful way toward the pearly gates. St. Peter met her with, “Welcome, Mrs. Lerner. Here in Heaven, we all make contributions. What would you like to do?” Mrs. Lerner responded, “I’m a teacher, so I’ll teach.”

Peter called over St. John-Baptiste de la Salle, the patron saint of teachers, and had him escort Mrs. Lerner to her new classroom. When she got there, she was was shocked to see the conditions. 40 desks. 35 textbooks, all outdated. Pencils, pens, and paper were sufficient to supply the class for perhaps one day, no computers existed, and a cracked chalkboard hung on the front wall.
“Oh, my God!” she exclaimed, “this is horrible!”
Boom! Suddenly, Mrs. Lerner was in an entirely different locale, escorted by a devilishly handsome young man. With a fiendish smile, he brought her to a very different classroom. 15 desks, well-equipped with supplies, books of all reading levels and interests, an interactive whiteboard, and behind each student, supportive parents. On her desk lay a contract offering the opportunity to bargain for decent working conditions as long as she continued to teach.
“I don’t understand,” she murmured, shaking her head. “Why the advantages here, of all places?”
The devilishly handsome escort slyly reminded the dedicated educator, “Mrs. Lerner, when you asked the governor for this, where did he tell you to go?”

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>Sound Bites and Protest Signs

>

The first time I heard the term “sound bite” was during the presidential election between Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush. Journalists, especially those on TV and radio, found ways to pull out a small snippet of a candidate’s speech and use it to form the basis of a news story. Remember these?
Read my lips: no new taxes!
It’s the economy.
…a kinder, gentler nation.
Save Social Security!

Protest signs have a similar challenge: not much space, the need for a quick message, one that a driver can read at a glance and continue driving safely. Amigo told me he was rallying for his teachers: those who had taught him in the past and those who were his teachers now. We talked over simple slogans, and he decided to include a little Braille to remind people that all students, no matter what their needs, must be educated. He used his Perkins Brailler to show me how to write SOS correctly, and we were ready. He knew which side of the sign to face out because he could feel the stick & duct tape on the back.

There’s a classic saying, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” The signmaker below has a variation on that theme – a variation that also points to new governor’s insistence that Wisconsin is “Open for Business.” How he thinks a strong business economy can exist without educated workers is beyond me. But that’s another post…
Anti-bullying programs and zero-tolerance policies for physical, verbal, and cyber bullying are common across the country. In many states, such policies are mandated by the Department of Public Instruction. Gov. Walker’s method for dashing off a divisive and devastating bill that guts the rights of many is just that – bullying. Questions? See below.

Sound bites or protest signs, they work in a similar fashion: quick to make a point, easy to understand, easy to remember, and the potential to provoke a more in-depth discussion. Let’s hope the bully decides to mediate soon so that Wisconsin workers don’t need many more signs.

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>Amigo gets political

>It was a typical Friday night. I pulled up to the store parking lot to meet the bus from the school for blind, gather Amigo and his bags, and head home.

As he got in the car, he was full of excitement. “Mom, did you hear what’s happening in Madison?” He continued talking, telling how he’d been learning about how the legislature works, what a quorum is and why it’s important, and a lot about the process of writing and passing a law.
Then he dropped the bombshell.
“Mom, I wish I could go to Madison tomorrow for the demonstration.”
I offered, “How about downtown on the plaza tomorrow afternoon?”
Amigo responded with an enthusiastic “Yeah!!”
So we made a sign for Amigo, I wore red to support my colleagues, and La Petite charged her camera to document the event. Here’s the rest of the story. The top photo shows my neighbors, both retired high school teachers, great people and great teachers. No, they’re not wearing Bear colors; those are the colors of my alma mater, West High School.

This was perhaps the youngest participant at the rally.

I don’t usually show full face shots of my offspring, but they were so great together I couldn’t resist.

I’ll have more background on Saturday’s post: personal experiences passed down through the family the old fashioned way, by the oral tradition. Well, the updated oral tradition: my relatives emailed me the stories they’d heard from my grandfather.

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