Saturday, January 7, 2017

"I urge you to deliberate honestly and thoughtfully. You are faced with a grave responsibility." from 12 ANGRY MEN by Reginald Rose

I received a jury summons in the mail a few months back, and I had to appear last week.  It has been a very long time since I have been called to serve - maybe over 15 years.  I was not looking forward to it, but I hoped I would learn something from the experience. 

First of all, just getting inside the Allegheny County Courthouse was an ordeal!  The Courthouse in Pittsburgh, just like airports and federal buildings, requires screening and the deposit of possessions into bins to be x-rayed.   My three Sabika necklaces set off the alarm, so I even had to remove my jewelry! (Sorry to the people in line behind me.) 

About 70 of us were herded into a large room at 8:30 a.m., and our summons were collected.  Just like school, some of the people forgot theirs!  Everyone was a little apprehensive, especially when we found out that they were choosing a jury for criminal court. When the judge appeared to speak to us about our solemn responsibilities as jurors, I could not help but think of the 37 years I taught 12 ANGRY MEN by Reginald Rose to my 10th grade English students!   I planned guest speakers back then, usually moms and dads of kids from my classes who were lawyers, and we spent several class periods on legal definitions of words.  Perhaps the most difficult one for students to understand was the term "reasonable doubt."  As the judge spoke to our group of prospective jurors, he spent quite a bit of time on that term as well.  He talked about the legal definition of "presumed innocent", as well as trying to be nonjudgmental. The gravity of his tone made me think of the uniqueness of our legal system, in which everyone is entitled to a trial with a jury of his peers. Just like exercising the right to vote is so American, serving on a jury is fundamental to the American system of law.  I felt good inside that I had been called to serve, because the judge's presentation reminded me of the blessings of being an American.

We had to complete a very thought-provoking questionnaire as well, which asked tough questions about personal beliefs.  Would I believe a police officer over an ordinary citizen? Would you? 

I was not chosen for a trial; in fact, no one in our group of 70 was even interviewed.  A jury had been chosen from another pool of jurors in another room.  In Allegheny County, jurors serve one day, and if they are not chosen, they are not recalled more days.  We are one and done. 

I felt relieved that I did not have to be a juror and have my life disrupted for a week or two on a homicide trial, and even more relieved that I did not have to work with 11 others toward a unanimous verdict - after all, you know what happened in 12 ANGRY MEN ! 

If you are called to jury duty, I urge you to take a positive attitude with you, because real people are the reason our justice system works. 

I have often wondered how many of my former students from those 37 years have been called as jurors, and I hope that our classroom lessons about law and reading and studying the play 12 ANGRY MEN helped them to be confident jurors. I loved teaching, and I personally enjoyed seeing my classroom teachings come alive in my experience in the jury pool.   

If you haven't seen the 1957 black and white film of 12 ANGRY MEN, Henry Fonda is wonderful as Juror 8, the hero of the story.  Lots of great character actors were also in the film.  Here is a link to take a look at the cast. 

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions. Rittman Publishing, LLC ®

GRADY GETS GLASSES was the winner of Best New Children's Book 2016 from The Authors' Zone. For more information about The Authors' Zone, please visit  

Visit Dede's webpage for complete details on her award-winning book, STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER. Many colleges have made the book required readingSigned copies are available Dede is also a national speaker on The Three C's for Classroom success: Confidence, communication, and Creativity; Avoiding Teacher burnout; and many other inspirational topics. 

I LOVE writing. And I love writing children's books- my newest passion. Although it will be a ton of work, I am looking forward to selling my books.  Since I was a secondary teacher, I know that I have much to learn about elementary students, and I will have to follow my own advice and be my genuine self.  However, I also know that I am passionate about helping kids who have to wear glasses, and that GRADY GETS GLASSES sends a positive message. I am willing to work hard and do all the things that also made me a successful teacher for 37 years. I remain inspired! 

Elementary teachers in Western Pennsylvania and beyond - I am willing to come into your classroom in person or as a virtual field trip through a group called Field Trip Zoom.  Check them out! 

Teacher friends- let me know if you want me to read GRADY GETS GLASSES at your school. I am willing to come in to discuss the creative writing process, why writing is important, and personal fulfillment through writing, along with reading my book.  I would appreciate the exposure, and I would make signed copies available for purchase in your classrooms following the reading.  Please email me at  The website now has plush Grady bunnies for sale!

Please like Dede's new page Grady Gets Glasses for updates about her children's book. 

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