NJCTE Supports S2455

The board of NJCTE has voted to join with Make the Road New Jersey and other professional and labor organizations, educators, and community groups to support S2455: to remove barriers to occupational licenses so that all qualified individuals, regardless of federal immigration status, can pursue their respective career paths. As New Jersey faces an unprecedented public health crisis, and a dearth of health care professionals to meet the need, it is all the more critical that this legislation moves forward.

Thousands of immigrant young people across New Jersey are studying to become nurses, physical therapists, teachers, or accountants, all occupations that require an occupational license – yet citizenship requirements currently block their pathway to licensure. Removing barriers to professional and occupational licenses for qualified individuals can help fill urgent state labor shortages and retain skilled immigrants.

Already, New Jersey has made enormous strides in welcoming immigrants. Because of legislative action, undocumented students who attend New Jersey high schools are eligible for in-state tuition and state financial aid if they go to New Jersey colleges and next year they’ll be able to apply for driver’s licenses. As a result, thousands of immigrants attend New Jersey colleges and universities with dreams of becoming nurses, physician assistants, and English teachers. However, these same students are currently not eligible for occupational licenses.

Passing S2455 will strengthen opportunities for undocumented students instead of forcing them to find other work or move to another state. For more information about this campaign, please contact Nedia Morsy at Make the Road NJ, nedia.morsy@maketheroadnj.org.

Consider 1) making a call or 2) filling out this link which will send a pre-written email to your representative: https://p2a.co/vcHctFN

Calls can go out to Senator Pou, Senate President Steve Sweeney, and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin:

Senator Pou (2544 sponsor): (973) 247-1555
Senate President Sweeney: (856) 339-0808 

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin: (732) 855-7441

Call script for Senator Pou: “Hi, my name is ________ and I am an educator in _______/member of NJCTE. I am reaching to thank Senator Pou for introducing S2544, which would expand access to licenses to all qualified New Jersey residents, regardless of immigration status. As New Jersey faces a severe nursing and healthcare worker shortage and teacher shortage, it is critical that the state step up. Thank you for your leadership and we are eager to see S2455 make it through the Senate and onto the Governor’s desk.”

Call script for Senate President Steve Sweeney: “Hi, my name is ________ and I am an educator in _______/member of NJCTE. I am reaching out to call on the Senate President’s support for S2455, which would expand access to licenses to all qualified New Jersey residents, regardless of immigration status. As New Jersey faces a severe nursing and healthcare worker shortage and teacher shortage, it is critical that the state step up.”

Call script for Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin: “Hi, my name is ________ and I am an educator in _______/member of NJCTE. I am reaching out to call on the Assembly Speaker to introduce and support an Assembly counterpart to S2455,  which would expand access to licenses to all qualified New Jersey residents, regardless of immigration status. As New Jersey faces a severe nursing and healthcare worker shortage and teacher shortage, it is critical that the state step up.”

NJCTE Supports S2455


By Patricia L. Schall, Ph.D., professor emeritus, NJCTE Executive Board Member, republished from the NJCTE Newsletter e-Focus, Issue #38, Spring Conference Renewal.

unnamed (1)
Too often we honor swagger and bluster and the wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others. … Some look for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear: violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleansing of our society can remove this sickness from our land.” 
Robert F. Kennedy
As I write, I am reflecting on Easter, a holiday my whole family celebrated with eggs, chocolate bunnies, new clothes, church, and traditional Italian food. When the family gathered around the holiday table at my grandmother’s house, the children were relegated to the kids’ table, a metal collapsible table brought out for the holidays. Joining the main table as a young adult was a genuine rite of passage.
As children at the kids’ table, however, we were expected to enjoy our dinner but keep the volume down, refrain from killing each other, and maintain the requisite distance from the adults and their conversation. In my family, kids were to be seen and not heard. Joe Giaquinta, one of my favorite NYU professors, once joked in class that his upbringing in a Sicilian-American home was not “an exercise in participatory democracy.” I’ll never forget that characterization of his family since it described my family so well.
I was a “nice” kid, and if I questioned the family rules, I mostly did so quietly, voicing my objections more often to my mother than my father, a man who did not tolerate children with opinions. My mother could be stubborn too, but she was more flexible; and, if you caught her at the right moment, more willing to listen to your grievances. Still, I knew my job was to listen and obey.
My quiet kid image persisted in school, which I loved and where I was the proverbial good kid. I did all my work and was eager to please teachers, though I remained quiet, especially while going through my adolescent years in middle school and high school. I rarely raised my hand to speak and would answer mainly if teachers called on me. While I might be roaring inside, I was reticent on the outside. I went through college as a student who faded into the back of the classroom, responding only if the professor called on me, and letting my political proclivities hang out as a writer and artist for the college humor magazine, Galumph. Once I started teaching and especially after I entered a Ph.D. program, I finally found the courage of my voice.
Perhaps my own history has made me admire the student activists at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. As I watch these students lead the nation in a fight for sensible gun regulations and school safety, I think about how unlike them I was at their age. They remain confident, exuberant, focused, articulate, and seemingly fearless in the face of many adults who aim to dominate them. They challenge legislators and well-funded, powerful groups like the National Rifle Association. They stand up to bullies in the media and especially in social media. Witness David Hogg’s takedown of Fox News commentator, Laura Ingraham, whose program lost many advertisers due to her media tirade against a high school student.
These young leaders refuse to back down when confronted by trolls whose vitriol and detached bravado grow exponentially with their virtual distance on Twitter and Facebook. These young women and men know how to use language to get things done in the world. They refuse to be victims.
When I was Emma Gonzalez’s age, I shook in fear when I had to speak in front of a class. Emma, however, addressed thousands of people from a stage in Washington, D.C. What courage! She now has 1.5 M followers on Twitter. David Hogg has 737.1K followers. Cameron Kasky, with 373K followers, summed up the student movement’s power in a tweet on 4/4/18: “For clarity–our elders are not bad people, I’m simply saying that social changes like this are so often brought about by the young and passionate. Countless people in generations before us have been infinitely kind to our movement, but we have to stand up. It’s never too early.”
Did these young men and women ever sit at the kids’ table? While the “Never Again” movement sprang from tragedy, these students were ready for action. They understand the power of solidarity and persistence. Adults are following their lead. Among those countless “kind people” who have supported the students and their initiatives are parents and teachers.
Some of the parents of the Parkland student activists have commented in the media about their continuing need to support their children as they pursue their hard-won mission and still provide them with the guidance all kids need to fulfill the typical responsibilities of students moving through high school, growing up, and preparing for college. Cameron’s father, Jeff Kasky, endorses his son’s mission, admitting, “We’re the ones who screwed this up and, fortunately, they have the wherewithal and the voice and the power to work on this.”
The educators and staff at Stoneman Douglas High School share the trauma of the losses, and many of them can take pride in their students’ commitment to a growing movement. As teachers ourselves, we can appreciate our colleagues in Florida who helped these students develop and manifest the literacy skills that have made them nationally recognized social activists. They can take some credit for helping them use reading, writing, speaking, and listening to get things done in the world. In harnessing the power of literacy, these students mastered social media to broadcast their message to the wider world. Parkland teachers  must proudly recognize in their students’ accomplishments that there is more to teaching and learning than preparing students for standardized tests. Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, for instance, credit a social studies teacher who taught them valuable lessons about citizenship.
Many of the Parkland teachers, led by their students,  participated in the March for Our
Lives too, while perhaps wondering about their own rights as citizens and educators who engage in protest and activism. The country may be seeing a new wave of civic activism as teachers engage in job actions, publicly revealing their frustration with legislators who refuse to hear their voices as educators and ignore their concerns about school safety, working conditions, benefits, salaries, and their right to more self-determination as professionals.
At NJCTE’s Annual Spring Conference, attendees posted messages of support on a graffiti wall and wrote notes and letters that were mailed to Stoneman Douglas High School. As educators, we believed it was important to stand with students and teachers in Florida and beyond. The gun violence that has plagued schools and other public place needs to end. There are more mass shootings in the USA than in any other country in the world. America tops the list of per capita gun ownership throughout the world.
These gun statistics remind us that we have reached the 50th anniversary of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. Despite the undeniable progress made through the Civil Rights Movement, too many unresolved problems remain. Many residents of cities, especially unarmed young Black males, die in police shootings.
The Black Lives Matter Movement continues to fight hard to hold police accountable for these killings. Even people who are licensed and trained to use guns contribute to needless deaths. The concern with guns and their use extends beyond the statistics on mass shootings. As Robert Kennedy said, “Violence breeds violence.”  People need to be safe where they live and learn.
NJCTE will continue to support teachers as they advocate for the school safety and a stronger voice in shaping the laws and regulations that govern their work. Professional organizations can help. NCTE has many resources for teachers to build their awareness of issues that affect their professional lives. Teachers also can look to their unions for additional support through the NJ Education Association (NJEA), the National Education Association (NEA), and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).
As I consider these options we have to make our voices heard as professionals, I return to my reflections on my own life growing up in a home that was not an exercise in “participatory democracy.” I think my mother recognized my capacity to challenge the rules of the family and perhaps the world beyond. She had a good feel for her kids’ personalities and a habit of characterizing us with pronouncements about us as people. Her favorite comment about me, even into her old age, was, “Patty, well, Patty is a pain in the ass.”
Well, Mom, you were right! I finally escaped from the kids’ table, and I am confident that all of us can do the same. As Cameron Kasky said, “It is never too early.” I say, it is never too late.
MLK image
New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, the New Jersey state affiliate of NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English



Wide Awake and Ready for Action: Part 3

In Wide Awake and Ready for Action: Parts 1 and 2, I discussed how teachers can stay awake and remain alert to our “brave new world” without getting overwhelmed. Here are some more ideas.

Everyone wants to tell teachers how to do their job, and everyone seems to know more about schools and teaching than teachers do.  Needless to say, this is frustrating.  I doubt that many patients tell their dentist how to do a root canal because they have had them done before. Why do so many people assume that they know more about teaching than teachers do? Don’t accept those assumptions. Use your own writing and speaking skills. Be proud that you are a teacher who specializes in the teaching and learning of language. Be heard! Let your authentic, informed teaching voices be heard!

letter to editorWrite letters to the editor.  Be sure to check the requirements of each newspaper or magazine, since they often have word limits. Include personal stories. They always get the attention of readers. Challenge yourself to write as clearly and concisely as possible. This is a good exercise for us, since we teach writing and expect our own students to master these skills.

Contact lawmakers in writing. It is easy to reach out to members of congress now via their websites or through social media like Twitter and Facebook. Old-fashioned letters often garner a greater level of attention. Use aps like Countable or Resistbot to easily reach your legislators. Countable provides summaries of legislation and other initiatives moving through congress and allows you to easily contact your members of congress. Resist Bot will let you FAX your legislators.

Call or visit your legislators. Develop and use a script when you call. Stick to the script and do not ramble.  If you call, be patient. It could take you some time to get through to the office. If you get the answering service, hang on if you can and wait to speak to an aide. If you cannot get through, leave a succinct voicemail. It is better than nothing, and it will be logged in. If you can, try to carve out some time in your busy schedule to visit legislative offices in person. Taking a colleague with you is helpful, since it is reassuring to team with another person, and you can keep each other focused. When you call or visit, you generally will talk to a staff member rather than the legislator. This is fine. Remember, staff members are required to log in all calls and visits and report your concerns to the legislator. Whether you call or visit, focus on one point, and keep reinforcing it.  Include personal stories in your commentary during calls and visits. Stories are easily remembered.  We are English teachers and know narrative is powerful.

I have learned in my own advocacy training sessions that legislators pay most attention to personal visits and phone calls. Actual letters come next, followed by email. I have heard that they disregard all those “sign your name” e-petitions. You are a busy person, so do what makes sense for you, even if it is just an email or tweet. Even brief contacts serve a useful purpose. They are recorded. Remember that most legislators are hungry for data about their constituents and their views. My recent experience with a telephone town hall organized by the legislator who represents my district in the House of Representatives unintentionally demonstrated the power of phone calls. At one point in the telephone town hall, since he refuses to host in-person town halls, he got rather testy and irritable saying, “So you people can stop calling my office. My aides have better work to do.” Really? And who gave you your job, sir? Needless to say, the calling continued. We had justifiably hit a nerve!

Finally, take care of yourself! Attending to your own needs is vital to your physical and mental health. I have been a teacher for more than 40 years, and I recognize from experience that teachers’ work is intellectually and emotionally demanding enough without adding on the time it takes to engage in political activism. Huddle for comfort, reassurance, safety, and increased power. Cultivate your friends and colleagues who share your concerns. Take time to enjoy a cup of coffee, a glass of wine, and meal together. Engage in rituals that bring you joy. Find time for yourself, your family, and your friends. Carve out time to do things you enjoy.

I retired a year ago, and I have been spending an extraordinary amount of time volunteering as a political activist. It is not exactly what I expected to do in retirement, though I always aimed to continue to advocate for teachers. My “job” has morphed.  I no longer find myself restricted by an academic schedule. I have no sets of papers to grade or classes and courses to prepare. Now I belong to citizens’ organizations. I rejoined NEA and NJEA after thirty years of working in higher education and have become active in retired educators groups.  I remain committed to my favorite professional organizations, NCTE and NJCTE. While I no longer have the responsibilities of a working educator, I still have to take care of myself.  An early morning class at the gym works for me, as do yoga and long walks in beautiful places and writing I enjoy. Find what delights you. The people and activities you love keep you refreshed and positive.

It is too easy to become trapped in despair and hopelessness in our current political climate, which leads to the loss of our locus of control. We owe it to ourselves and others to take time to awaken to a new dawn within ourselves, become prepared, make our voices heard, and care for ourselves so we can continue our mission as educators and citizens in service to others. Action is healing.


Nelson, J.L. & Stanley, W.B. Protecting the right to teach and learn (2001). In Daly, J.K., Schall, P.L., and Skeele, R. (Eds.) Protecting the Right to Teach and Learn: Power Politics, and Public Schools. New York: Teachers College Press.

Pat Schall


Written by Pat Schall, NJCTE Board Member

Posted by Audrey Fisch, blog editor for NJCTE

New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, the New Jersey state affiliate of NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English

Wide Awake and Ready for Action: Part 3