Representative Government 101
For those of you who do not know me, I am a fifth grade teacher on Long Island. I am also someone who believes in teaching my students much more than what is required on some asinine Common Core assessment. I teach them how to be truly prepared for the wonderful futures that each one of them deserve and hopefully achieve. Today was one of those days when they learned much more that my planned aims of today’s lesson.
I have been teaching about the American Revolutionary War and our nation’s struggle to establish a form of government that is … “of the people, by the people and for the people.” We have been having discussions as the the importance of representation on government and what that really means. So today, I planned on demonstrating to my students that anyone, even them, can contact a legislator that represents them and either find out where they stand on an issue or to give their own opinion on any issue. I have also been teaching them that opinions back with facts and background are far more powerful than just plain opines.
Today, I called my NYS Assemblywomen Michaelle Solages, while my class watched. First I showed them how they could find their assembly person and how they could contact them. We went to the Assembly website and searched. I explained that yesterday there was a controversial vote regarding the Board of Regents and that I wanted to find out how Assemblywomen Solages voted. I also gave them some background as to why I was interested. I explained that there were many people who were looking for a change in the Board and that Assemblwomen Solages had led many of her constituents to believe that she would not vote to reappoint four Regents.
I showed the class that I would be taking notes during the conversation and asked them to be patient. I called her office and a staff member answered the phone. I introduced myself as a constituent, the staffer asked my address and why I was calling. I stated that I wanted to know how the Assemblywomen voted on the Regent issue. The staff member then told me she did not know, and that she would have someone call. I asked if I could hold on while she found out and she said, that this is an issue that is of high priority. I then asked if that was so, why can’t she just tell me how she voted. She again said, someone would call me.
Three minutes later, the Assemblywomen called. The first thing she wanted to know was my address. I told her, then asked her how she voted on the Regents issue. (Please keep in mind, at no time was she on speaker phone. My class was merely listening to my words only not hers.) As I was talking to her, my principal walked into my room, I handed her a note, that said ‘ lesson in representative government, Assemblywomen Solages on the phone”.
The Assemblywomen, began by telling me that people move into my village because of the schools and how they affect our property values. I interrupted her and said, I merely wanted to know how she voted. She then went on to ask me if I had children and what age they were and how long I lived in my Village.
I again asked her how she voted. I explained to her that I was a teacher and that I grew up in the village. I know how important our schools were and that I didn’t understand why she just could not answer my question.
She threatened to end the call if I would not let her speak. I explained once again, all I was looking for was a simple answer, “how did you vote?”
She then told me that she could not in good conscious vote for some of the candidates due to their stance on guns. I then asked her if she voted to reinstate the incumbent Regents. No answer.
I then asked her if she voted for Finn.
She responded, “Justice Finn?”
I said yes, “Did you vote for her?”
She said, “yes.” I then asked her how justice Finn was able to bypass all the other candidates and get pushed to the front of the line? No answer. I then said something like, well now we have a “spiritual adviser’ as a Regent.
I then asked her again if she voted for the others. This went back and forth without any definitive answers.
It was futile, I then told her that I was in front of my class ( Where else would I be at 10 A.M.) and that I will have to tell my students that my representative in government refuses to tell me how she voted.
At this point she said that I was wrong for doing this, how would my students parents feel about my call, and I shouldn’t use children this way. I told her, I was teaching my students how they can find out how their representative voted. She then abruptly hung up on me.
I then turned to my class, they asked me how she voted, I told them she did not answer me and that she hung up.
I thought the lesson was over, not quite…
I needed to explain that what she did was wrong, that she should have answered my questions and that she most likely avoided answering because she knew I would not have agreed with her. I then explained that my only recourse was the ballot box .
Several minutes later, my principal walks in at informed me that the Assemblywomen, called her and complained that I was doing something wrong and requested my principal talk to me about it. ( How did she know where I worked? I never told her. Did she misuse her official office for an attempt at revenge?)
I then called her office back, and informed her staff member that her attempt to get me in trouble failed and that now it is “game on.” I explained that I would actively campaign in my village to ensure she never gets reelected.
I thought my day was done the, but not quite.
On my way home, I received a call from NYSUT. She called my regional office to once again complain about me. I calmly informed NYSUT what transpired, assured them I never had her on speaker phone and that she never answered my question.
I then call Assemblywomen Solages office once again, and told them that I was informed about her call to NYSUT. I told her staffer that unless the Assemblywomen called to apologize I would approach the press.
So far no call at 7:35PM.. Therefore the blog posting.
The sad thing is, if she would of allowed her staffer to answer my question, it would have been over, my students would have learned a little something about representative government and all would have been fine.
But no, the Assemblywomen demonstrated behavior that should never be tolerated in representative government and my students learned much more than I even dared to dream they could learn in one day. Thank you Assemblywomen Solages!