Remember when – before school safety drills?

Almost twenty years ago, it was. I taught in our neighborhood school, a relatively small building with a student population of, oh, maybe 300, max. In a tornado drill, we could fit the entire student body in the maintenance engineer’s basement storage room. In a fire drill, we could exit the building quickly and get back inside before the lessons were forgotten.

Then one day the fire alarm went off – in the rain, and during the lunch period. No one knew who pulled it or if something had malfunctioned. There was chaos at first as kids tried to figure out which exit was closest. Then there were moans and groans of “It’s raining! Hard! I’m getting soaked!” Principal and police liaison swept the school as quickly as they could and sent us all back inside.

And then the alarm went off again. This time, teachers grabbed their umbrellas and cell phones. We checked in with each other, brought the kids around to the same side of the building, and actually took shelter in a neighbor’s (thankfully large) garage. And then, someone started to whisper.

“Someone could have shot us all. Like in Arkansas, right?” “Or in Colorado. That place with the kids in trench coats.” Jonesboro, Arkansas: March, 1998. Littleton, Colorado: April, 1999. Suddenly the cold spring rain didn’t matter quite as much. All of us, teachers and students, were cold and wet and scared – but no one was shooting. It was okay, sorta kinda okay.

Today, many years later, schools often drill during the lunch period “just in case.” Many schools have an alternate location set up in case of rain or bitter cold. All of these are good signs, signs of progress in keep our students safe.

Today, many years later, we drill to keep kids away from a potential active shooter. We did lock down drills for years. Now we conduct ALICE drills – Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate.  No matter what the name, schools practice getting students out of the way when someone comes into a school with a weapon. No matter what the safety procedure, children and adults still get killed.

And this, my friends, is not good. Not good at all.

More Postcards I Didn’t Send

Dear Mr. Vice President;

Your behavior during the Olympic Opening Ceremonies was tacky, unsportsmanlike, and just plain wrong. By standing only for your own country, not even acknowledging the Korean hosts of the game, you showed the America First attitude at its worst.

Cheering for the Masses,

Daisy

Dear Mr. President;

When you support abusive men, women are listening. We’re listening, and we vote.

Daisy

Dear Mr. Speaker;

You responded to 17 deaths in another school shooting by telling us that “This is not the time to jump to some conclusion.” No one is jumping anywhere unless they’re jumping out of range or running for their lives.

From the Island of Conclusions (jumped there, of course),

Daisy

Who Are The Next School Shooters?

Who are the next school shooters or mass shooters? How can we recognize them, and how do we stop them?

It’s a complex problem, and stopping the mass shootings that are becoming all too common will require a complex solution.

Activists work to tighten gun laws. They want to outlaw guns like the AR-15, guns with only one purpose: killing. They want to require background checks, thorough background checks, any time a person buys a gun.

Mental health advocates work to help people who might consider carrying out such a shooting. Depression, anxiety, and more can be factors in producing a killer of many.

Not to be forgotten are the National Rifle Association (NRA), those who work to keep gun laws weak and widespread access to weapons strong.

It’s a complex problem. After Sandy Hook, after Columbine, after Parkland, expert and not-so-expert analysts look for red flags, events or ongoing stresses that might have built up the pressure on this individual. After the fact, folks in the know pick through a shooters’ profiles and backgrounds, identifying possible triggers, the proverbial straws that broke the camels’ backs.

It’s a social problem. Was the shooter harassed? Bullied? Excluded and isolated? Did anyone reach out to this person? Did anyone recognize the risk, help this person before the potential for disaster became real?

It’s a medical problem. Mental illness, diagnosed or not, can be a major factor in someone deciding to carry out such a horrific event, taking lives of so many others. Mental health care must be available to all who need it – and mental health coverage must be part of any health plan.

It’s a legal problem, a gun problem. That’s hard for me to say because I know so many responsible gun owners. Hunters, mainly, these friends would never dream of leaving their firearms loaded and accessible to someone – anyone – who might misuse them. That said, no one needs a semi-automatic for hunting game. The AR-15 that’s been in the hands of so many mass shooters doesn’t need to be legal.

It’s an accessibility problem. Felons, domestic abusers, people who have been identified as a danger to others must be prevented from owning guns. License to kill only exists in fiction. In reality, life is precious.

It’s a complex problem, and the solution will not be simple. I wish I had an answer.

The Postcards I didn’t send – yet

I’m still sending postcards to my elected officials. I write them in cursive in the hopes that it’ll make the office interns have to work to read them. I did tell a certain office-holder that eliminating Net Neutrality would cut down the number of followers to his Twitter feed. But other than that, I’ve restrained myself rather well. Here are a few messages that have gone through my head, but not through the mail.

Dear Senator Johnson;

A secret society in the FBI? What’s next, a conspiracy theory about the moon landing? A committee to find Communists? One Red Scare was enough, thank you very much. We Wisconsinites are not proud that McCarthyism started with one of our own.

Sincerely,

No Red Rose, just Daisy

Dear Congressman Gallagher;

Your letters are long, wordy, and low on substance. Many times your responses seem to carry the intention of educating your constituents. Unfortunately, your man-‘splaining essays do more to insult the intelligence of your well educated voters.

Daisy (with a Graduate Degree, I might add)

Dear Senator Baldwin;

Keep fighting the good fight. You have many supporters here in our fair state.

Daisy, campaign volunteer

Dear Speaker Ryan;

You’re good with numbers. However, you keep forgetting that each number on your spreadsheet represents a real person. A person with rent or a mortgage, a person with bills to pay, a person who pays taxes. A person, if she has the proper ID, who votes.

A voter paying attention,

Daisy

Dear Mr. President;

Have you read the story “Kaddo’s Wall”? My students, unprompted, said that Kaddo reminded them of you. Oh, what am I thinking? You’re not a reader.

Teacher (and lifelong learner),

Daisy

Hawaii – Paradise, Innocence Lost

Influenza has reached epidemic levels in 49 of these United States. The lucky state without the dreaded flu (for now) is Hawaii. Hawaii, however, had its own scare Saturday.

First: Cell phones across Hawaii received an emergency alert telling them in all caps:

BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. 

Parents called their children. Young adults called their parents. Those who could, sought shelter. Those who had no way of getting out of harm’s way – well, all did what they could.

For 38 minutes, people prepared and panicked and told their loved ones – if we’re completely honest here, folks, people called their loved ones to say goodbye. They called to say love you, love you forever, I may not survive the day.

Then the announcement came: FALSE ALARM! Roadside signs announced NO THREAT! Word on social media spread that the cause of this outrageous scare was due to a “wrong button pushed” during a shift change. The governor came on (after a long wait – he’ll take flack for that) and assured the residents and visitors to his state that “steps have been taken to ensure that a situation of this type will never happen again.”

Mr. Governor has a tough road ahead of him. We in the continental U.S. join our island friends in asking questions, too.

  1. What took so long? In today’s techie world, 38 minutes? Did no one notice sooner?
  2. Why did social media hit the story ages before the mainstream media? Not even a crawl addressed this in cable news or on the major networks – even after the 38 minute long scare.
  3. Where was our president? Did no one inform him? Did he even care?
  4. On the other hand, maybe we should be glad he was heavily into a golf game and didn’t have a knee-jerk reaction that would send out an attack in response to a perceived threat.
  5. Think about it. One wrong button pushed? I have a hard time believing that a single click or press could result in an emergency announcement of this magnitude. Steps taken after the fact may be too little, too late.
  6. Think long run: how will this affect travelers’ willingness to visit the Aloha state?

Hawaiians and tourists, I feel for you. For once in my life, I’m grateful to be in the middle of the heartland, surrounded by the Great Lakes instead of the Pacific Ocean. I can’t say I mind the cold and the snow. I’ll deal with the below-zero wind chills; I’ll power through the snowdrifts. I’ll wrap myself in blankets and give thanks that my fair city is unlikely to be target for a missile attack, unless that missile is a football soaring over Clay Mathews’ head into an opponent’s arms.

Still, I have questions. I’m sure many thousands of others have questions, too.

Word for the Year – Action

More than a few years ago, in January of 2009, many bloggers welcomed the new year by choosing a word. The word was to provide a focus, guiding changes and progress throughout the calendar year. That year, I chose Action. 

Scrappy Affirmations (look her up, she’s awesome), asked for suggestions of goal words for her key chains. Without thinking further, I suggested Action. 

Action is a natural for this time. To begin with, it means to continue Project Postcard. I’ll print a new set of return address labels to make this action easy.

Don’t have a word yet? Haven’t thought about it? Take a look – adopt one of these or use them as a starting point to find your own.

This is not in any way a sponsored post. You can see “my” word in her collection, and if you check out her page, you’ll see a lot more. 

Looking Back (2013) and Looking Ahead (2018)

Oh, Facebook. Those “memories” can be good, bad, humorous, and even painful. Five years ago today I posted this:

2013 is not a year for Resolutions, per se. It is a year for goals.
Recover from “stroke” that wasn’t really a stroke: gain enough strength to walk to work again.
Publish our (Chuck’s & my) book.
I said two, but a third: continue to learn and grow as a teacher in the online education world.

Where to start? The “stroke” turned to be a true stroke, visible in a later MRI with updated technology. Finding this led to another procedure that discovered a nearly completely blocked artery – a major one – and placed a stent in it. That stent is still operating well, and the aneurysm on the opposite side of my brain has remained stable. All things considered, life is precious.

Chuck and I set the book aside for a while. It’s time to pull together and get back on it. Now that he is settled into a new job with a lower stress level, he can take a deep breath and put in some time at the computer writing and editing.

Five years later, I am still teaching in the online world. I’ve stretched my learning and taken on leadership roles within my department and working on curriculum with the national (corporate) people as well. The best teachers are lifelong learners; I hope I fall into that category.

2018 will be a year to increase my activity in the political and societal realms. There’s too much negative in the world to sit back and let it happen. My word for the year is “Action” and the corresponding goal is to speak up. Postcards, emails, letters to the editors – every voice counts.

Happy New Year, friends and family. Let’s make it a good one.

Teaching Peace – The Elevator Pitch

Teach Peace

Mine is purple, a hooded sweatshirt, and also has a small peace sign below the words. It’s a soft and warm sweatshirt, perfect for a below-zero bitter cold day.

And so it was that I was seated in the alcove next to our pharmacy awaiting at long last my annual influenza vaccine, alongside an elderly gentleman apparently awaiting the same. He asked me about the message displayed on my comfortable hoodie.

“Tea? Peach? What does that say?”

“Teach Peace.”

“Oh.” short pause “What does it mean?”

“It means teach people to get along with one another.” Phew, that was quick thinking. 

“And so, um, what do you do?”

I wasn’t sure exactly what he meant, so I answered the question I hoped he’d asked. 

“I teach middle school, so there are many opportunities to teach young people how to work together and be kind to each other.”

And before he could ask another question, the pharmacist arrived with her syringe and my paperwork. She slipped the needle into my upper arm with only the slightest of pokes – she knew what she was doing! – and away I went.

I came away with a feeling of relief that I’d finally been able to get the shot in the arm I needed to help me stay healthy. I’ll keep on washing my hands and taking other precautions to prevent these nasty viruses from entering my body. This visit was also a reminder that if I plan to wear my philosophies on my chest, I need to be ready to explain those philosophies. Wearing my “Teach Peace” sweatshirt today kept me physically warm and mentally sharp.

When school starts, I’ll be sure to follow through teaching kindness and peaceful behavior.

I’m Back!

My laptop is in the shop again. I’ve been contemplating buying a tablet or a 2 in 1. To make a long story short,I did it. I am getting to know my new device, and you, readers, can expect more posts from the O.K. Chorale soon! But first, I’m off to take Amigo to the courthouse to sing God Bless America and thr Armed Forces Medley for Veteran’s Day.

Caveman Politics

I saw this term in a comment on Facebook, and it stuck in my head. “Caveman politics” term was a commentary on a bill that would forbid University of Wisconsin employees from performing or assisting with abortions. You read it right, readers: people who do their work in the hallowed halls of government are trying to legislate training and practicing medicine at the University of Wisconsin Medical School and its associated clinics.

Perhaps I should call it Paleolithic Politics – it has a nice ring to it, with a bit of alliteration.How many of us actually know what the status of women was like in the Paleo- or Neolithic eras? I can look it up in my history texts, but what I really want to know is this: why does our state legislature want to take their ideological swing so far to the right that it tells the University of Wisconsin Medical School what it can and cannot teach?

Would you like to know more? It’s scary.