Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Day 174 – A Piece of Legislation We Could All Get Behind, Mr. President. The Think Before You Act…Act.

Dear Mr. President,
You and your spokespersons have insisted that you have signed more bills during your time as president than any other president in American history. And, in a bizarre twist, Politifact has rated this claim as mostly true. You have, in fact, shown a very keen desire to sign your name as often as possible. However, it turns out that only one of these new laws has actually created a new policy. The majority of the rest of your signatures have been on laws that “have been passed through the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to roll back regulations imposed by the executive branch, and are aimed at dismantling former President Barack Obama’s legislative legacy.” This really isn’t groundbreaking legislation after all.
And so, I have a proposition for you: I propose that you craft a piece of legislation that not only would be groundbreaking and legacy-creating, but that would actually make America greater.
Read the rest of this post at Letters2Trump.

Monday, July 10, 2017

To the man who felt it necessary to question my son in the bathroom at IHOP

Dear Sir:

I don’t know why you felt the need to tell my eight-year-old son that he was in the wrong bathroom at IHOP. I’m not sure why you felt that his presence was a problem. What was your intention? If you truly felt that he was a girl, and that you were somehow going to protect him by questioning his gender, wouldn’t it have been even more effective to simply just make sure that he was okay? Why were you so concerned about his gender? Shouldn’t you just have finished your business, washed your hands, and gone back to your pancakes? After all, that’s what my son was planning to do. Instead, you told him he was in the wrong restroom. And when he told you he was a boy, you informed him that he didn’t look like a boy. And then you took it one step further: you told him he should cut his hair.

My son came back to the table, explaining that some man just told him he was in the wrong bathroom, that he looked like a girl, and that he should cut his hair. I asked my son how he responded to you. He explained that he just told you that he was a boy, but that he wished he could have told you that you were rude. I wanted to give my son permission to tell you that you were rude. In fact, I flippantly told him that he should have said exactly that. But, I have raised my kids to understand that telling something they are rude is, in fact, a bit rude. My son said, “nah. That would have been awkward.” And so my son let it slide. But he was definitely shaken by your rudeness.

What right do you have to tell an eight-year-old child what he should and shouldn’t do with his hair? I have raised my son and my daughter to understand that their bodies = their property, and that no one else has the right to touch their bodies without their permission. And this goes for their hair as well as any other parts. They have autonomy over their own bodies, sir, and you have no right to tell them or anyone else what to do with --or to-- their bodies.

My son likes his hair. He knows that people, at first glance, think he's a girl. And he's okay with that. "I'm a boy," he says, and usually they say, "oh, sorry man! Great hair!" and then he goes on with his life. He's comfortable in his own skin, and he's comfortable with who he is. But he's not comfortable with a stranger telling him what he should or should not do with his body. "It's my hair," he said. "Why does that man even care about it?"

I know that girls have had the same issue recently. Our policing of gender has escalated, because somehow we all believe it is our duty to put each and every person into a box convenient to our limited understanding. Or maybe our policing of gender norms has always been this opinionated, and it’s only recently that we’ve become obsessed with bathrooms.

It seems to me that what really needs to be done in the bathroom is related much more to hygiene than to gender policing. And what my son needed was the chance to pee, wash his hands, and then come back to the table to eat his pancakes. If you truly wanted to be helpful, sir, you could have simply said “hi” and just made sure he could reach the paper towels. If you felt that commenting on his appearance was somehow necessary, you could have said, “hey, kid, nice hair.” And, if you really felt it appropriate to give him some advice, saying, “you have a nice day,” would be totally in line. Just think: you wouldn’t have felt so self-righteous and you would have taught a young kid how to be a decent human being. Instead, you pulled rank on an eight-year-old kid and taught my son exactly what kind of a man he never wants to be.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Day 143 - It’s Time for Contemplation…and Soap, Mr. President.

Dear Mr. President,
You have had, truly, an embarrassing week. From your insensitive and inappropriate response to the London attack, to your feigned bill signing and childish binder tossing of Infrastructure Week, to your inane and incomprehensible responses to Comey’s testimony, you have shown again and again, that you are out of your league.
But today is Sunday, the first day of a whole new week. It’s a day of reflection and a day of looking forward. It’s a day to plan a fresh start. I’ve laid out the steps for you, and it’s fairly simple: only a two-step plan. I’ll call it Contemplation Week.

(Read the rest of this post at Letters2Trump.)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Day 122 – Kiddo Letter: Try to Make a Difference.

A guest post by my daughter. 

Dear Mr. President,
I’m almost 11, and over the years I’ve noticed that girls are treated very differently than men. And, being a girl, I care very much about that. You may not care, because, you are a manYou don’t have to worry about earning less money than men, because you are a man. Before 1920, women weren’t allowed to vote, to own property, or work for equal pay. And, even if you were alive then, it wouldn’t matter. Because you are a man. None of this would affect you much.
But it affects the women around you.

(Read the rest of this post at Letters2Trump.)

Friday, May 5, 2017

Day 106 – Education – Medicaid = Mr. President, It’s Time for School.

Dear Mr. President,
Yesterday, a bad thing happened. The House republicans passed The American Healthcare Act, the bill designed to repeal and replace The Affordable Care Act. I know that you are not very interested in reading the bill in its entirety, just as you are not particularly interested in the millions of people this bill will hurt. You see no need to heed the advice and warnings of patient advocacy groups; nor are you interested in listening to the American Medical Association’s condemnation, the American Hospital Association’s condemnation, or the American People.
But I am a public school teacher. My job is to teach every person in the room, regardless of their apathy, enmity, or ability. My job is to individualize instruction for every student and make sure that they all have the resources they need and the hands-on learning they need to be able to truly master the content. (Just yesterday, in fact, I was concisely explaining exactly what The Civil War was all about.) So I am willing to sit with you, Mr. President, and patiently teach you at your individual learning level, so that you can understand what just one of the very serious problems is with this bill.

(Read the rest of this post at Letters2Trump.)

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Day 73 – Defunding Planned Parenthood Puts Your Voters At Risk -- And It’s Wrong.

Dear Mr. President,
I know that you have the ability to love women. After all, you’ve married several of them, you’ve fathered several of them, and you have said that your mother, above all women, made you the man that you are. Although you have bragged about your sexual prowess and sexual abuse of women, you have also insisted that no one respects women more than you do.
And, although you are made uncomfortable by truly brilliant and powerful women, you have a great deal of respect for your daughter, elevating her to one of the highest positions in the country, and you allow another woman to speak for you, for better or for worse, across the nation.
You have recently talked about empowering and promoting women, and removing barriers that women face. And yet, when it comes to women’s health, you are balancing on the fencepost of misogyny. Why else would you consider caving to people who value their dogmatic beliefs about abortion more than tangible lives of actual women needing healthcare? You, yourself, have said But millions and millions of women — cervical cancer, breast cancer — are helped by Planned Parenthood.”

(Read the rest of this post at Letters2Trump.)

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Day 39 – States’ Rights Do Not Trump Human Rights

Dear Mr. President,
You like to be right. You had a chance to be on the right side of history.
You like to build things. You had the chance to be on the foundational end of building a more inclusive and safer world for our children.
You consider yourself an enforcer, a powerful man. You could have enforced a basic human rights issue: that of the right to be able to pee.
You like to be compared to famous people. You could have been the Abraham Lincoln of the right for all students to safely urinate without needless obsession about their genitalia or birth certificates.
And yet, you caved. You backed down from your statements about bathroom laws, and you caved to the fetishization of trans people. “There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate,” you said. “There has been so little trouble.” And yet, you couched your beliefs about the need to “protect all people, even though it’s a tiny percentage of 1 percent” with the hopes that “most states would ‘make the right decisions.’” You caved to the fetishization of “States’ Rights” over “Human Rights,” knowing full well that states often willingly trample on human rights until they are forced to recognize human rights for all.
You caved to the right to discriminate.
(Read the rest of this post at Letters2Trump.)

Monday, January 30, 2017

Complacent No More

We got complacent.

We were naive.

We thought that we had made a difference in all of our years of fighting and educating. We thought we were winning the battle. We knew that we were not yet post-racism, post-feminism, post-narcissism. We knew that we had a great deal of work left to do. But we thought we were making gains.

And then the election happened. In one horrible night, we watched in increasingly drunken and increasingly hysterical panic. What had happened to our country? What was happening to us? What in the hell were we going to do? How could we possibly survive? How could we raise our children in a country that was suddenly exploding with everything we abhorred?

You see, we had not won. We had only buried the hatred and racism and extremism and selfishness down into the bowels of our country. And the eventual eruption of all of that horror was caustic.

We have so much work to do.

We can no longer be complacent.

So, what can we do? What can I do?

I marched in Montreal with the Women's March. It was a start. Millions of people worldwide, on every continent, marched in solidarity. I was there. And I vow to continue to participate and make my voice heard.

The women's march now calls for 10 actions in 100 days. It is a start. I will participate. challenges you to make one phone call a day to your representatives. It is a start. I can make one call a day. I will.

Letters2Trump posts a letter to the President every day. In this letter, the writer calls for action. The writer implores our President to think thoughtfully and critically and to do the right thing. It is a start.
Here is my letter.

We were complacent.

We cannot afford to be complacent any longer.

I will not be complacent.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Day 5 - The Point of Serving is to Serve

Dear Mr. President:
Because “I believe the children are our future,” as Whitney Houston once said, I asked my 8 year old son what he would tell you if he could write you a letter.
“Mom, we already did that, in school,” he said.
“Oh. Well, what did you say?” I asked.
“I told him to shut up.”
Once I managed to regain my mom voice, I said, “Fair enough, Sam. But, that’s not super helpful. We want to be helpful to Donald Trump, not insulting. So, think about how you could help him. If you had any advice for him what could you give him? If you wanted to tell him anything about his job what would you want to tell him?”

Read the rest of this post at

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Virtually a Virtual Disaster

we've got to do something different

Virtual learning in educational settings is expanding exponentially. It's cheaper; it's more accessible to students anytime, anywhere, on any platform; it's touted as the answer to the highly circulated myth of the failure of the American public schools system; and in Michigan, it's the law. But it's not working for our high school students in Michigan and it's not working nationally. Unfortunately, because of the nature of academic research, most of the articles and studies I have found related to student success in online learning are all studies of higher education. There are huge differences between high school students and college students related to maturity, perceived power and control, choice, perceived relevance, apathy, long-term vision and goal-setting, self-efficacy, and self-control. Young adults are not "younger adults." Studies related to engagement and motivation and success in virtual higher ed environments are simply not applicable to high school students. We have to do something different. We are losing our kids to virtual classes and they are losing out on a quality, meaningful education.
Rob Kelly, in "Five Factors that Affect Online Student Motivation," posits that Brett Jones' MUSIC theory's factors of "eMpowerment, Usefulness, Success, Interest, and Caring" are the factors that contribute to student success. As per the usual, Kelly's discussion is based on higher ed students, not high school students. And in this way, the MUSIC theory misses the point: high school students don't see the usefulness of what they are "forced" to learn, and it doesn't matter how often they are reminded of "the real world," they don't believe or can't see what the real world is like. Therefore, the other factors of empowerment, success, interest, and caring are absolutely critical for high school students to experience, if they are to be successful in their classes.
Unfortunately, much of the virtual class offerings for our high school students offer none of the remaining MSIC aspects. So much of what the students experience is predetermined, checklist learning. Student interests and student choice are not factors in their courses; in fact, their voices are seldom heard. Much of the course offerings are instructor-free. Someone, somewhere, built a course and it now functions as software, not as interactive learning with human beings. As one of my former students (enrolled in and currently failing an online sociology class) said yesterday, "Sociology is about human interactions; wouldn't it make sense for a class about human interactions to have some?" In addition, the lack of feedback and the lack of interaction creates a student success vacuum: students only know if they got something right or wrong; they don't know why, or what errors in their understanding they have, or how to move in the right direction, or what they are doing well. There is no support, no sense of community, very little connection with their interests, and no caring. Even the students with a "real, live teacher" in their virtual classes report having very little interaction with the teacher and no sense of who they are as people. The interactions they have with other students are stilted and limited; they don't feel "real."
Something has to change. It's not enough for Milman (2011) to insist that students complete a readiness self-assessment before embarking down the virtual path; it's not enough for Kim et al. (2014) to insist that an LMS module that encourages student goal-setting and reflection be a part of the virtual experience; it's not enough for Kelly (and Jones) to tout the necessity for their MUSIC theory to be a part of the learning experience for students. High school students have different needs and different motivations than adult learners. They need to have that personal interaction, and we need to figure out how to make it happen. For my former student who is failing his online sociology class this semester, the solution is for him to bring his Chromebook into my classroom at lunch every day so that I can work with him and encourage him and high five him and nag him and make eye contact with him and remind him that he is worth it. Until virtual classes can figure out how to make this happen, I'll be spending my lunches helping their students try to find and maintain success.

"Those offering online courses should provide even more supports to foster the success of all learners. This assistance should involve completion of high-quality orientation by all students, examination, development, and implementation of effective strategies to support students in online courses, careful monitoring of the reasons why students might withdraw from online courses, factors that contribute to their persistence, and also research about factors that promote the success of all students" (Milman 2011).

  • Guo, J., Marsh, H. W., Morin, A. J. S., Parker, P. D., & Kaur, G. (2015). Directionality of the Associations of High School Expectancy-Value, Aspirations, and Attainment: A Longitudinal Study. American Educational Research Journal52(2), 371–402.
  • Kelly, R. (2012, August 10). Five Factors that Affect Online Student Motivation. Faculty Focus. Retrieved from­classroom/
  • Kim, R., Olfman, L., Ryan, T., & Eryilmaz, E. (2014/1). Leveraging a personalized system to improve self-directed learning in online educational environments. Computers & Education70, 150–160.
  • Milman, N. B. (2011). Is online learning for all learners? Distance Learning.