Sunday, February 8, 2015


*This is part of the social media campaign to invite our governor into our schools to say what our schools and students really need. 

Govenor Cuomo,

I would like to cordially invite you into room 356, an 7th grade English Language Arts classroom, at Farnsworth Middle School in Guilderland, NY.  Here are just a few things that the 7th graders in room 356 are working on...writing, reading, blogging, reflecting, creating, thinking, worrying, growing, maturing, listening, speaking, producing, procrastinating, inquiring, laughing, hiding, figuring, analyzing, comprehending, hypothesizing, theorizing, brainstorming, arguing, and being.

If you accepted this invitation you would write with us, hear us share our writing, and listen to us share our stories. You would read with us, hear us share our thinking and listen as we try to make sense of our world.  You would see us use paper, pencils, Chromebooks, imaginations, cell phones, apps, opinions, cameras, experiences, folders, hearts. Some of us would be sitting at desks, some in couches, a rocking chair, bungee chairs, or standing at pub tables.

In room 356 you would find we are writers, filmmakers, photographers, readers, story tellers, citizens, bloggers, artists, learners, journalists, thinkers, friends, a community. The students you declared you are the lobbyist for are room 356.

I am inviting you in not to meet with me. Not to put my teaching on display for you, but to put you in touch with a chapter of the NYS K-12 Student Lobby for whom you are working so hard. My fear is you know nothing of the craft that is my profession. For while your mother happened to be a teacher, that does not give you the right to judge my work. My own mother was a nurse, but yet I do not profess to know the best way to treat a patient.  So if you accept this invitation, it would be to meet with your constituents, the students of room 356. Because before a lobbyist can attempt to influence those who make the decisions, he must first talk to those whose interests he represents. Otherwise, on whose behalf are you lobbying?

I propose you visit the 7th grade students in room 356, your 7th grade students, to tell them how you are representing them. Let them hear from you what you are demanding from the legislature on their behalf. Come and explain to them how their test scores will be responsible for 50% of their teachers' evaluation. Hear their reactions as they try to understand how their performance over three days won't simply determine whether they are a 1, 2, 3 or 4, but their score makes up half of their teachers' score. It could result in their teachers' termination. That their younger sibling might not have the same teachers. That they might not be able to visit me in room 356 next year as the 8th graders do so often. Come and help them understand why those three days in April sitting, reading, bubbling and writing aren't stressful enough already. Because I have a feeling, that unlike most lobbyists, you didn't run your ideas by the students you represent.

Better yet, Governor, you should come and sit in room 356 on one of those mornings in April. Sit among your students with your No. 2 pencil for 90 minutes and take the all-important test. Sit and bubble as one of them and struggle to determine the best answer. And after those three days sitting, reading, bubbling and writing, talk to the students you lobby for about why their answers are more important than all the other work we have done all year that can't be measured via Pearson or PARCC and convince them that what you are proposing is in their best interests.

Their responses would hopefully give you pause. I wonder, would you listen to them? Would you entertain their questions, their doubts, their concerns? Or would you be silent? And would your silence reveal you for the true lobbyist that you are? The millionaires' lobbyist. The hedge fund managers' lobbyist. The charter schools' lobbyist. 

This may seem like I am putting too much trust in a group of 13 year olds, but I know one steadfast truth about kids: they can spot a phony a mile away. A phony who claims to be looking out for them when he clearly has another agenda. A politician through and through, who misuses his power instead of doing what is right. 

So come into room 356 and have at it. Because my guess is, you won't last even a few minutes.

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