Emergency Exit Row August 2010


By Karen Aronowitz, President, United Teachers of Dade….
Steve Slater, the flight attendant who grabbed himself a couple of beers and slid into folk history, has become my imaginary pressure release valve. I can conjure up Steve, cursing out passengers, broadcasting his rage on the PA system, pulling the handle of an emergency exit for his own emergency escape, any time Imust act better than the people around me.

Steve, who has lost his job, his pension (twenty-eight years on the job!), and who faces a lengthy stay in the hoosegow, has provided a service to millions. He has provided a mental escape hatch when others are rude, disrespectful, arrogant, or just plain obnoxious. Who hasn’t wanted to open one’s mouth, let it rip, and flee through the emergency exit?

Let the image of Steve be your own step back from the precipice of bad behavior. Let a Mona Lisa smile carry you through those times when the behavior of others is too much to take for even another second.

As we prepare for the opening of school, how do we create an environment for children that teaches them the social skills needed to behave well? Of all the lessons learned by students, the most important one of all is called “Getting Along With Others.”

“Getting Along With Others” has changed greatly, and yet, not a whit. Columbine and Virginia Tech changed our perception of the type of action students will take when they feel ostracized. Thirteen-year-old Megan Meiers took her own life after other students ruined her reputation through cyber bullying. These chilling reminders of out-of-control behavior in our schools are reflected out of school as well. Their actions are not the sole province of mentally ill children.

Who doesn’t know the meaning of going postal?

As students head back to school, our teachers will provide a welcoming environment for all children in their classrooms. We will teach students to take turns, raise their hand to be recognized, wait in line, and share. We will work to provide a place of safety and respect for our students, and we will ask that they provide us with the same.Good schools provide safe, orderly environments for their students.

Of course, our children live in the world. They bring to school the same behavior they see all around them. If they live in a world where people push and shove their way off of airplanes, disobey the rules to remain seated until the seat belt sign is turned off, ignore instructions to turn off all electronic devices, and who yell and curse at flight attendants, they will think this is acceptable behavior.

Steve Slater lost his cool. He was unprofessional. He does not exemplify the behavior we expect of those who serve. But for a moment, as he made his escape, we cheered.

The United Teachers of Dade represents 38,000 teachers and school support personnel in MDCPS. The union is committed to being a leader in creating public school reform, fostering a quality public education for all students and elevating the professional status of teachers, paraprofessionals, office employees, and all school support personnel.

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