The ALS Card

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

First of all, Sunday, when I “went public” about my diagnosis on Facebook, I did not expect – could not have imagined – the utter flood of kindness, support, and ill-deserved praise that would surge into my inbox, onto my Facebook page, and into my text and voicemail.

The most surprising and humbling was the great Diane Ravitch writing this and spreading my story and causes to her many dedicated followers. The irony, of course, is that all I have done all my life was my job (yes, I hope with passion and dedication, but just my job) while she has refused to let significant health issues of her own prevent her from taking on powerful lobbies and monied interests to fight for kids by writing a New York Times Bestseller, founding the Network for Public Education, and incessantly and tirelessly traveling/speaking/blogging to mobilize and support teachers, parents, and advocates. She is the only hero here in the grand sense of the word. (Be sure to watch her on Moyers & CO. this weekend!)

I look forward to blogging the links to the blogs of the tireless unsung heroes who work without recognition or remuneration to battle the wave of market-based education reforms that seemed unstoppable until they built the foundation for the counter-movement. (For a bit of humor to lighten the mood, here is North Carolina’s delightful Dov Rosenberg:

I’m just an outraged teacher-turned-attorney working hard to stay true to my beliefs and principles. One who happened to get sick.

To get “dealt the ALS card,” so to speak.

And before Sunday, I thought I was ready to play the card with reasonable courage. But now . . . well . . . I cannot conceive how I can ever live up to the confidence and praises expressed by my family, friends and colleagues.

But I hereby pledge to try; I am so deeply touched and inspired.

When I spoke Friday to Stephanie Ansaldo, the director of the wonderful Echo Foundation, about funding a trip for my students to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, she said something which, to be honest, I had not considered:

“Use ALS; it’s going to use you.”

Now, I need to be very frank about something (and if you know me, you’d not believe me if I professed otherwise): I do not mind a spotlight. As much as I am genuinely determined to pursue certain ideals, I enjoy the opportunity to command the room. Most teachers and litigators have at least a modicum of ego.

On the other hand, I feel a powerful responsibility to play the ALS card (1) strategically, (2) sparingly, and (3) in a manner that it redounds to benefit the causes about which I am passionate.

So . . . to the many kind friends and supporters who have emailed/messaged to ask about donating, the Kickstarter site will soon be active and you will be able to donate to my project – the one at the top of my very short bucket list. I’ll post the link here, on Facebook, and on Twitter. We are calling the project Writing Wrongs; after visiting the USHMM, our students will create an anthology of original pieces reacting to their own experiences with inequity, injustice, and racial hatred. I’ll certainly take that as part of my legacy.

You can also contribute to the Duke ALS clinic here.

So . . . what to do with the time that we are given? The best we can with the cards we’re dealt.

I have the ALS card.

Here’s to winning some tricks with it.


4 thoughts on “The ALS Card

  1. I am also a teacher who went to law school and later returned to teaching. I also wonder what I can do to stop the dismantling of our public schools Do you have any idea how many of us teacher-attorneys there are?

    I so appreciate your courage to fight on to protect our democratic treasure, our public schools. I also agree to use ALS to further your life’s purpose. I applaud you for this sentiment.

    I am in Columbia SC. If you think of anything we teacher-attorneys can do, please include me.

    I am chairing the legislative subcommittee of the education committee of the SC bar. I just started. So I will keep you informed as to how it goes. I am also trying to start an education caucus for our state Democratic Party to keep the narrative of supporting our public schools front and center. But the Democratic Party here is so very weak. And of course, there is the Arne Duncan complication.

    Again, I am honored to be able to read your blogs. They already have given me a sense of courage and purpose.

    Sandra Ray, J.D., Ph.D, NBCT

    Sent from my iPad


  2. Pingback: Vivian Connell: How She Will Play the Hand Dealt to Her | Diane Ravitch's blog

  3. Pingback: Vivian Connell: How She Will Play the Hand Dealt to Her | Educational Policy Information

  4. Pingback: Vivian Connell: The teacher we all should have had –

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