I have been meaning to write this since last week, but I had been swamped and with this piece by Norm, felt it was time for people to see what an effective leader, union member, MORE candidate is capable of.
I spent Good Friday like a Good Jew, sleeping in and taking advantage of the day off by scheduling a doctor's visit.
While waiting for the doctor, Jonathan Halabi texted me through Facebook and we were texting until I had to see the doctor. When I came out it continued and I suggested since we text too much to meet up for coffee. Jonathan told me his car was in the shop (next time come to me for the parts!) and told him I would pick him up and since I was in Chappaqua it would take me about 45 minutes to get down to the Bronx.
It was a good time with Jonathan. We hit a bagel store in Mount Vernon and the symmetry came alive. We both ordered scooped out bagels with lox spread. But that is not why I am writing this piece. The reason I am writing this piece is I got to see Jonathan in action as not only a chapter leader, but more importantly, as a human being that day.
When I pulled up to Jonathan's place he was outside on the phone. At first I thought perhaps a family member was ill or in crisis but I heard more and was able it was a educator, a non-tenured teacher Jonathan was involved with.
Now, I can't divulge any part of the conversation other than to say that this educator was in crisis and somehow found Jonathan (being that she was from Queens and not from his school) but I saw how Jonathan was trying to not only deescalate the situation and the anxiety with the educator but to empower her as well.
Jonathan took her step by step through what she needed to do and in fact was able to share with her he reactions to what she would do by telling her how she should react. How to word an email, how to react to any negative reactions to the email, steps she can take. And most importantly, do what she had to do to leave the school.
Jonathan's tone was very soothing and very caring. He took what was happening to this educator personally. At no point did Jonathan try to impart his agenda or someone's else's agenda. Like a doctor, he did not want to do any harm.
In fact a few days ago I called Jonathan myself for some advice. I had a "good problem," and wanted to hear what he had to say. He gave it to me straight and again, as he was with the educator from Queens, the most important thing he reiterated to me was about the well being of my career.
Jonathan very well could have said to me or to the educator in Queens to get angry, to threaten, to huff and puff to we threaten to blow the schools down, expose the someone, write a blog post, FOIL, or do some other dumb ass thing. Wait, he could've, but he never would.
With myself and the educator from Queens I heard in Jonathan's voice a true knowledge of not only the UFT contract, but how to be firm, how to protect yourself, and the proper way to deal with bullies.
The way Jonathan is, the way members of MORE are, not running away from a crisis but dealing with it head on with empowerment, knowledge, and humility are not signs of weakness, but signs of strength.
To give advice that is contrary to the beliefs of Jonathan or MORE are the easy and coward's way out. Strength comes from within and with the confidence you exude in yourself. If you have confidence in your own abilities, your own beliefs there is no need to feed people fear.
Strength is in building a community that doesn't fizzle out but that will grow and be sustainable and not rely on any one person. Strength is being able to pass the torch along.
Jonathan Halabi is running for the HS Executive Board. Don't forget to check off the MORE/New Action slate when you get your UFT ballot.