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I Pledge Allegiance...

Posted by on in Social Emotional Learning
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Friday was an interesting day for my students and myself. We saw a demagogue be sworn into arguably the most powerful and important position in the world. We watched an inaugural address that basically said America was terrible: our schools are "flushed with cash" with students "devoid of knowledge", our people are on welfare and not working, gangs and drugs are destroying our country, and mothers and children are trapped in poverty.

Throughout the speech, we were all thinking the same thing, how would this impact us as individuals? At the time, we didn't really know, but I think we are getting a clearer picture. Actually, we received some strong indicators within the first few hours of his presidency and it started with the transition of the White House website.

Before you read any further, please know that I am aware of how the site updates and transfers when a new president comes into office. Not only am I aware, but I made sure my students also understand how this works. This knowledge does not change the high level of concern that we felt after hearing of some of the changes.

By the end of the day, we learned that there was no longer any mention of some very important societal and global issues. A quick look at the sites of President Obama compared to Mr. Trump shows you the priorities of the issues according to the administration. b2ap3_thumbnail_Screen-Shot-2017-01-22-at-4.53.46-AM.png

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The immediate changes were glaringly clear and alarming to all of us. My students were alarmed that there was no longer any mention of climate change, civil rights, LGBTQ, and others. Instead, they were able to see what was of the utmost importance to their new presidential administration.

As informed young people (not devoid of knowledge contrary to Mr. Trump's opinions), they are aware of Mr. Trump's and his administration's views on climate change. We watched parts of the confirmation hearing for EPA nominee Scott Pruitt in class. They heard him tell Senator Bernie Sanders that his opinion on what caused climate change was "immaterial" to running the EPA, while admitting that humans "impact" but do not cause the phenomenon. My students (and youth everywhere) seem to understand the importance of saving our planet while those who now run our country do not.

They are also incredibly aware of how important their civil rights are if they want to be safe in this world. What kind of message does it send to our youth when civil rights issues are omitted in favor of  "standing up for our law enforcement community"? They are aware of the state of policing in our country. They know how many unarmed Black and Latino people are killed and targeted by police. They have learned about the civil rights violations and unconstitutional uses of excessive force by the Chicago Police Department against community members.

They know about the history of Senator Jeff Sessions, whose nomination to serve as our nation's Attorney General is a danger to their rights. They have knowledge of his links to racism and the KKK that resulted in his being denied a Federal judgeship by a Senate committee. They understand how this appointment can potentially impact them as non-white members of this country.

They know about the new administration's stance on LGTBQ rights. They are familiar with the attempts of vice-president Pence to allow discrimination against people because of their sexuality along with the anti-marriage rights for people of this community. They have learned that the prominent line of thinking is that sexuality and orientation is a choice and people can have this changed.

As you can see, my students are well-informed. They do not have their heads in the clouds and fully understand the reality that is in front of them. This is why the failure to mention any of these issues on Mr. Trump's White House page is so incredibly troubling to them. The most important issues for our youth are not on the radar for our new administration, so what do we say to our students?

How do we tell our students that their safety is a priority? How do we tell our most marginalized groups of students that they have rights and matter to the people who control our nation? How can we tell them to stay positive and give the new administration a chance? How can we tell them to focus on what they can control when what they cannot control is a very real threat to their physical, mental, and emotional well-being?

The answer is simple: WE DON'T. We don't sugar coat things. We don't tell them that everything will be alright when we cannot promise that to them. We don't tell them what and how to feel about what is transpiring in front of their eyes. We don't ignore their feelings and tell them to focus on their school work. We don't tell them how or what to feel and when to feel it.

Instead, we listen. We teach. We inform. We support unconditionally. We love. We are present. We open our minds and hearts to them. We place their physical, mental, and emotional well-being over everything else. We accept that curriculum can wait. We stress that they are the future of our world. We encourage them to spread knowledge and information to their loved ones. We preach acceptance and advocating for one another. We help mold socially responsible young minds. We create citizens that stand up for what is right, domestically and globally. We empower the future of our world to realize their own power in society.

As educators, we have taken an oath to support the Constitution and everything that it encompasses. During times like these, this is a responsibility that we cannot take lightly. We must remember the reasons behind the creation of the Constitution.

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

I reaffirm my oath as an educator and a citizen. I will fight injustice everywhere and teach my students to do the same. I will work to do everything I can to educate and empower my students. It is our responsibility to create citizens who will change this world for the better. Will you reaffirm your oath to do just that?

I,  Sean A. Thom, do solemnly swear, (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of New Jersey, and that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same and to the governments established in the United States and in this State, under the authority of the people.

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Born and raised in Cumberland County, New Jersey, Sean not only has remained, but has continued to grow with his community. He now resides in the same county with his wife and their two young sons. Sean currently serves as an administrator at Camden’s Promise Charter School, where he focuses on the professional development of teachers and building various social-emotional skills with students. Graduating from Rutgers University with an undergraduate degree in Communication as well as a graduate degree from the University of Scranton in Educational Administration helped open the doors to what has now become nearly a decade long career in education.


 


 


 


As a result of connecting with people everyday of all ages, ethnicities, cultures and beliefs, Sean has learned how to listen and meet the individualized needs of different groups of people. In order to help organize parents and educators to come together in academic spaces, it has required him to search for innovative, functional, and inclusive ways to solve problems.


 


 


 


Despite Sean's childhood aspirations of one day becoming an attorney, he has since become an unwavering advocate for positive youth development and education. Growing up, Sean experienced difficulty financially and emotionally in an unstable household while also battling a sometimes crippling learning disability (ADHD). School became both a place of refuge and a source of trouble for Sean. If not for certain teachers and school faculty encouraging him as a young person, he would not have pursued higher education and would not have been able to impact countless students the way he does today.


 


 


 


Throughout his career as an educator in New Jersey, Sean has based every decision solely on what is best for youth and their futures. He has worked to create new, effective programs as well as supports for students and parents addressing social issues. Sean has demonstrated his student-first approach by never being afraid to privately and publicly question decisions that impact teachers, students, and the educational process. As a result, he has been able to create strong, lasting relationships across our state with the students, families, and communities that he has served.


 


 


 


As a leader in education, Sean has rooted his success in incorporating three major values that he applies to every facet of his life: honesty, integrity, and transparency. All great leaders exhibit honesty regardless of how difficult a situation may be. In these times, we need someone who will honor the trust of their constituents, despite possible backlash. Sean has displayed his commitment to integrity by maintaining a strong moral basis in all decisions, never being swayed by personal gain, and combating corruption wherever it exists. Transparency is also something that is not frequently witnessed in politics. Without it, it is easy for elected officials to lose touch with the people they serve. Having worked in education, Sean understands the power of collective responsibility while encouraging collaboration and the inclusion of diverse opinions to impact change. His unique background matched with his life experiences have allowed him to truly understand the struggles and needs of so many American people.


 


 


 


As the next United States Congressman from the state of New Jersey, Sean promises to apply the most effective policies to positively influence the collective growth of all New Jerseyans and Americans. He intends to only put the best interests of his constituents, state, and country first, regardless of how unpopular that may make him within the political machine. This is how we give politics, power, and our country back to the people. This is how we place our future first.

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Guest Thursday, 17 August 2017