Testimony to State Education Committee July 16, 2020

Tweet that inspired me to act!

As I woke today I read an article from Michigan Advance “Michigan Teachers not invited to legislative hearing on reopening schools.” Emotions quickly filled my heart: anger, frustration, resentment. Concerned stake holders should not have to turn to media to get their concerns heard like Jessica Mathews. Instead of allowing these feelings to overwhelm me, I decided to testify for the committee via video. I hope the members listen to my words and concerns. I attempt to cover the 3 major concerns I have. I didn’t cover all of my feeling because my teacher voice isn’t the only one, I encourage who ever sees my testimony to share it and create their own. ALL involved in the educational process need to be given a voice on this matter and have their voice heard. I don’t know a teacher who doesn’t want to go back to face to face instruction but there are huge safety and budgetary concerns. Our government is supposed to be “For the People, By the People.” Lets make it that way. In my testimony I forgot to include student and parents voice. These voices are also missing. I hope the committee seeks them out. Please raise up your voice so educational stakeholders concerns are heard. Lobbyist and special interest groups from out of state should not be the primary voices for reopening our schools.

Rating: 1 out of 5.
My Testimony

Thanks for listening to me. Lets work on a plan that involves all state stakeholders to reopen schools.

Schools Never closed

March 13, 2020 is a day that will live in my memory forever. It was the day the COVID19 invaded our state. Our Governor ordered that schools close for student attendance. While our doors were shut, staff was busy working. Staff worked to clean the building. Staff worked to provide food for students and their families, Staff worked to shift instruction from a traditional model to an online model. Staff worked to create instructional and communication plans for the community. For most of the school staff this shift was huge. It required more time working especially for administration who coordinated all of these efforts. Everyone was learning a completely new job. All staff was trained to meet our students needs face to face, few on staff had ever expected to be required to do so in this emergency remote learning environment. This was a shift.

Schools shifted from their normal operations to new 2020 pandemic operations in similar ways as businesses. Lead by administrators as guides teaching staff embarked to discover how best to meet all of our students needs. Exploring all options available. Reaching out as best we could. This required hours of work. Creating new plans and a new path forward. Staff ended up working like first year teachers learning how to deliver lessons on the fly. It was hard for students too. Without the normal structure of the school day, students struggled with online schedules. Teachers ended up supporting students on-demand. Teaching shifted from instruction during school day, to instruction on demand 24/7. It added news stresses to an already stressful job.

As the debate rages about “reopening” schools in the fall, let’s remember that although the buildings were closed, SCHOOLS WEREN’T CLOSED, they SHIFTED. The media continues to use “closed” when describing schools. This devalues all the hard work that happened and continues to occur as teachers want to be prepared for fall no matter how we are asked to deliver lessons.

This summer has administrators working on multiple plans for fall. Everyone of them desires to return to face to face instruction when safe to do so. Teachers are full of anxiety on how the fall will look in their classrooms. Busy learning about every online learning method that they can. Hearing the so many shout out that schools need to “reopen” knowing we never closed. All in education worry about our students and what they are missing during this shift to learning from a distance. Now as districts are finalizing their 3 pronged plans, politicians are threatening funding if we don’t “reopen”.

Schools don’t have to reopen, most are delivering summer school programming right now. All districts have teams of staff working on best modes for delivery of lessons this fall. Educators are working hard so success is found in the fall for what ever road the local leaders feel is safest for us to head down.

Just remember Schools never closed. We will continue to shift as our community needs to provide education for ALL of our students.

The Hood Dilemma


The hoodie!  A staple in our students’ wardrobes. Most adults wear them too. SO why does the hood provide so much discussion and conflicts in schools?

Many schools have rules banning the wearing of the hood. This rules is created out of good intentions. Schools want a safe and engaged environment. Hoods impact both the school safety and engagement. Students often wear earbuds under hoods. Earbuds playing music can lead to students running into each other in the hallways or not engaging in the lessons in the classrooms. In some cases students hid vape devices under their hoods. Hoods also conceal students identity to cameras around school campuses.

Do all of our students have these intentions when wearing a hood? No absolutely not. Most students like the feeling of the hood, like curling up with a blanket. In the winter students enjoy the warmth of the hood, especially when up to 10% of the bodies heat can be loss through ones head. Tired students like to hide in their hoods, resting their hooded head on their arm as it lays on their desk.

So what is the dilemma?


Is a school rule banning hoods, criminalizing it? I think not. It is teaching our students how dress for different situations and follow the rules/norms for an situation. In my school the rule is explained to students. Most students follow regularly. A few need gentle regular reminders, I just give them a look and show a hand motion of putting the hood down; no issue arises and no conflict. Of course there might be 1 or 2 in a grade level who want to make it an issue by fighting the rule, this just leads to a discussion where teacher and student come to a mutual understanding of expectations.

Our society is full of norms/expectations. School need to teach students how to follow these expectation. Many businesses have rules banning or requiring certain clothing.


Isn’t the hood rule similar? Don’t we want students to be rule following citizens in our society? It shouldn’t be a dilemma, just a discussion of expectations.

ON A Side Note: I also always tell my students if they don’t like a rule they can go through the process of changing it. Explaining the process and  how to make changes to make our school better.

Why I didn’t make your meeting …


Do I really need to explain myself? No! but I need you to know I feel guilt every time I miss a scheduled meeting. I feel I need to explain myself. Yes, I made a conscientious decision to miss your meeting, that obviously was important. I feel that my time can be better utilized. So let me explain.

I wake up early to make sure I am ready for my day with students. I arrive before 7 AM even though my report time isn’t till 8. I need to make sure my copies are made, room is set up for the students, my website is updated and lesson plans in place. I often check in with co-workers about students and if time permits take care of correspondence. Twice a week (Mondays and Wednesdays) I have students arrive at 7:30 AM because I voluntarily have a video production news cast. I enjoy working with these students who have a passion for what they are doing. It takes up an hour per week in the morning and lunch time (30 more minutes) on Wednesdays to make it happen.  My works days are busy with instruction any free time is used to reflect and collaborate.

When the last school bell rings (3:10), my attention shifts to my children. I am the father of 3. Twin eleven year olds in fifth grade and a fifteen year old in tenth grade. My twins school ends at 3:50, They walk home but I try to get home as soon as I can to help them get going on homework. These two are active. Many days they have after school activities  like scouts, dance, sports and science olympiad starting between 4:30 and 5:00. My Fifteen year old is a three sport athlete and active in boy scouts. This means after school hours require a chauffeur because they are filled with meetings, practices and games. My wife and I are busy making sure that there are no conflicts on the calendar.

I want to be involved and attend your meeting. I don’t shy away from work and appreciate the opportunity to share my voice. If I can’t make a meeting it is because something is conflicting on my calendar. You might not deem my conflict as more important or might ask that my spouse cover if possible. Sorry but my schedule is managed by me, something more important is on the calendar.

Thank you for including me. E-mail me the minutes. Keep inviting me. I will attend when I can. I will contribute when I can. Just think about your schedule and if I randomly tried to fit a meeting in it? The question comes up when talking with my wife: “Why can’t teachers meet during their work day like other profession?” Great question. It seems to make ALL the meetings, to be FULLY involved, one can’t have children or extra activities. It is hard on all educators. We are all busy with family, spouses and outside activities. We can’t make them all.

The ugly side of sports


I have loved sports my entire life. As a child, I loved playing soccer on the banks of the Mississippi River in the Quinsippi Soccer League. Playing basketball at the YMCA. Learning golf and tennis by playing with my brothers and father. Growing up in a rural area, high school sports were king. While in grade school, my father purchased season tickets to watch the Quincy High School Blue Devils Basketball team. I enjoyed cheering on the team with the community as they annually competed for a state championship in the 1980s.

Now as an adult. I love watching my children compete in the fields and on the courts. Watching them grow as players and develop news skills fills my heart with pride while bring back fond memories of my childhood. I have even had the pleasure of coaching my kids in basketball.

Gavin basketball team 2nd grade
Me coaching some Gavin’s team (tall one) 

Lately I have noticed that there is an ugly side to sports. It has always been there but I had chosen to focus my efforts and attention to all the positives sports bring to the table. I can’t stop ignoring this negative side, I see it impacting so many youth today.

From fans to parents to coaches to players negativity is shown. Fans are rabid promoting fierce rivalries. Some act like a high games outcome is vital for their existence.  Parents scream and shout wanting more playing time for THEIR kid that can do no wrong.  Coaches push kids to their  limits running up scores often leaving some players discouraged due to little or no playing time. How will they get better if they get no game action? Players mimic the professionals, flexing muscles and taunting the other team on every good play even when loosing a game.

Two recent local high school stories keep sticking in my head. First was has football upset where Dakota HS out played Chippewa Valley HS. It was a game that Dakota could be proud of defeating a team that had dominated them recently. In celebration a father decided to burn his varsity Chippewa jacket upon the return to their home school. Once it hit social media, well it wasn’t pretty. Here is the media coverage. Second happened last week when Almont played Denby in the state semi-finals. After the game was called, racial slurs flew and the police were called. We can’t have this in sports at any level!! It is causing a shortage on referees.  Who would want to be a referee if many don’t respect their calls?

It needs to start at the professional level. Sportsmanship needs to be modeled and expected. Players have to stop arguing with the referees, Coaches too. I tell my players that they aren’t allowed to talk to the referee, that is the coaches job. The leagues need to reclaim their games before it gets out of control.

I loved a recent presentation from my son’s school Athletic Director. He shared that student athletes shared that their grandparents are their favorite fans. Why? Because they love how they played NO matter WHAT. Time to refocus game days. Make them for KIDS again! #gamedaysareforkids

I am JUST a teacher

Just a teacher

It is heard all the time: “You aren’t just a teacher” or “Don’t say you are just a teacher.” The intention is that teachers have many jobs and are more than the title, but do we say this about other careers?

Just a firefighter? Just a doctor?  Just a police officer? “Just a” any other career?

This linguistic choice is devaluing our profession. We allow others to shift the focus from our profession to how we act with in our profession. It allows society to separate teachers from the individuals who do the job. Justifying treating teachers poorly in society because they stop viewing us as teacher. It needs to stop.

I am JUST a teacher and PROUD of being a TEACHER. Teaching is a difficult job it requires many skills where we make hundreds of decisions in the blink of an eye. Teaching requires unique training in pedagogy and into understanding how our students’ adolescent minds work. Being a teacher is a honorable profession. We are working hard to help mold the youth into positive contributors in our society.

Many neglect to see teachers value by using the “Just” a teacher language. As teachers we need to stand up and claim our profession by being proud of the title!