Speaking out is not that hard.

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Almost two months ago now, I set up the Faces of The Layoffs website.

It was a really simple impulse — I wanted to do something for a friend and former colleague who had gotten a layoff notice in the mail that day. What if I could post her story on Facebook, with a photo to put a face on it? I thought. Wait. What if we could get everybody to do that?

Thanks to Teacher Action Group, bringing this idea into reality was easy. We brainstormed some catchy titles, spent $18 on a unique domain name via WordPress.com, and launched the site on a Sunday afternoon, about two hours after I thought of the idea and two hours of actual “work.”

The most rewarding part of this project was interacting with people who sent in submissions for the site. The vast majority of entries were sent in not by the people who got the layoff notices, but by their colleagues and family members who took the time to honor the skill and dedication of those close to them. Many of them wrote and said, “thank you for giving me something to do about this.” Many of them also wrote, “what can I do now?” The basic organizing principles worked beautifully: take your anger, find some hope, and make a plan.

On the flip side, the most difficult part of the project was wondering about all of the schools from which we received no entries. Were they shy about sharing the fact of their unemployment, often a private matter? Nervous about retribution from their administrations or the district? Or just in the dark about the project? (At one point, after we had been on the cover of the Metro and interviewed on Action News,  we even cold-called the offices of some schools in an attempt to broaden our reach.)

As you may know, the school district budget is still a mess. I don’t think for a second that the Faces project will solve that. But we managed to influence public opinion for the better — and it was not that hard (see paragraph 3.) I had a good idea, and a few great communities to support me.

If you’re in Philadelphia and you haven’t spoken up yet, collect your anger and come join us now.

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