Dear Gunn alums,
As someone who was in the classroom with Gunn teenagers for fifteen years, teaching English, my heartstrings are firmly tied to the school along with yours. I’m very glad to be able to reach out to you in this way.
Every one of us, I think, has been deeply affected by the loss of so many of our treasured students in the past seven years. I was changed forever by the experience—shared with my 100 fellow teachers—of being a “first responder” in the classroom when the morning’s news was so hard for all of us, students and teachers alike, to absorb and to fathom.
Two years back, a sophomore girl and I teamed up to found a community campaign to create a more hopeful life for Palo Alto’s high-schoolers.
Save the 2,008—christened for the number of students and faculty at Gunn in the immediate wake of two losses—has grown into a grassroots alliance of 530 teachers and alums, parents and aunts and uncles, PAMF physicians, mental-health professionals, business people, artists, faith leaders, attorneys, and Stanford professors.
Gunn alums are especially welcome to lend support, and with just the keystrokes of your name, you can add your voice to our chorus for change.
Our initiative makes six commonsense proposals to nurture trust, joy and, meaning at both Gunn and Paly by:
1) Shrinking class sizes—now routinely at more than 30 teenagers per room—so that students won’t feel lost in the crowds and their teachers will be more accessible;
2) Empowering kids with a nightly voice in homework loads—via a confidential, student-teacher app that compares minutes assigned to minutes worked;
3) Requiring guidance counseling before enrollment in multiple APs (which wipe out sleep-time, family-time, and friendship-time, with less payoff for college admissions than is supposed);
4) Rescuing our teens from their all-day dependence on social media—by banning phone-use, first bell to last (except for class instruction), and by making campus more companionable;
5) Reining in the relentless grade-reporting (so that kids aren’t under a continual G.P.A. gun but have time to recover from the hurts and setbacks of adolescence);
6) Undoing the misery-inducing cheating—engaged in by a majority of students, countenanced by school officials, and inimical to mental health.
Dispersing this toxic cloud of stressors, we’ll open up breathing room for student-to-teacher connections—those ties that sometimes become lifelines—and for a sense of togetherness on campus.
As an alum, you can join our campaign with just your signature at savethe2008.com. “Strength in numbers” is the secret to grassroots success, and is our best hope for overcoming the resistance of the school board and superintendent.
Above my desk in the English Dept. I kept the motto: “I touch the future. I teach.” For the many Gunn classes to come, now, let’s all touch the future together.
Gunn English Dept. (1995-2010)
Save the 2,008