16 Things I Learned This School Year

Jose VilsonEducation9 Comments

For my academic end-of-the-year post, I’d like to end with a little self-reflection. For any teacher (or any person in academia), reflection is the most important part of one’s growth, if that’s what the person intends to do. Without further adieu:

1) From the first day onwards, I’m already saying, “This is how I’ll do it next year.”

2) Some of the minutiae that these people want you to do? Do them, and get it out of the way. Because bulletin boards to some people are much more important than actual instruction and fostering a good environment with your kids.

3) If I don’t follow #2, then it’ll take a huge uphill battle to wither the storm from above and below you.

4) Lock up everything, and I mean everything, that is of value to you.

5) Eradicate anyone / anything that’s not conducive to a good classroom environment.

6) Hold others accountable for what they say they’re going to do.

7) Choose how you spend your time with kids individually in the classroom. If they’re growing from the interactions you’re having, then that’s something you foster. If not, then don’t force it. Some people really are just not ready for you yet.

8) Find the balance between being yourself and being the teacher. The teaching profession is as big an acting job as it is teaching, because it’s about the art of being. This year, I let a little more of my personality show this year, but not before I enforced discipline in the classroom. I’m still trying to find that balance.

9) Don’t do more than you can handle, because then people take you for granted, or worse, you can’t concentrate on your instruction.

10) If you need help, there’s plenty of people out there going through your struggle or that have gone through your struggle. If you can’t look within your own school, there’s always a chance that you Google a term like “New York City teachers” and find another teacher’s blog.

11) Unions are really damn important. On the foundational level, the opportunities employees under unions have are plentiful. Without them, the “up shit’s creek” metaphor applies to us.

12) It’s OK to show a little emotion in front of your class … after a few months. It lets them empathize with you.

13) Leaving the door open in your classroom is the best technique for demonstrating to parents, administration, and students that you’re not there playing games.

14) Suburban and rural kids don’t have many problems finding successful / affluent influences all around them. For urban kids, that’s a much bigger issue. And often, if you’re someone who looks like them, you’re often the only role model that these kids have. And I’m not equating Black = poor, either. I’m referring to poor and working class Latinos (which is my school’s main demographic) and Asians, too. Becoming that role model / parent that they never had does wonders for a kid’s growth.

15) #14’s Corollary: It’s alright to be a parent to some of these kids. It’s somewhat painful, and if you’re not ready to do that, then I completely understand. If you’re the strict disciplinarian / instructor, then that’s cool. People like me, though, just don’t have that in our nature.

16) Awards like these make up for anything. Thanks … (this was from a student of mine, whose name I protected for obvious reasons) …

Man of the Year Award

Mr. V, signing off …

Quick reference note: This is my second year teaching, but it certainly feels like my first in many ways …

Comments 9

  1. Congratulations, Mr. V. – very nice job indeed!!! You have made a tremendous impact on your students-not only academically but in the development of the whole child. Your dedication and continuous self-reflection demonstrates your on-going quest to provide your students with the “best of you’ every single day; that in itself is a gift which you bring and give to your kids freely and lovingly. One thing I have learned and will share with you is to: choose your battles and strategically win the war. Continue doing what you do!!!!

  2. These are very thoughtful, observant insights. I especially like the comparison of teaching to acting. I often feel like I am on stage for my students, and I mean that in a good way. Also, thanks for reminding everyone of the importance of balancing our personal and professional lives. It’s very easy to meet burn-out when we obsess about our kids.

  3. We need to self-analyze to survive. The system in New York is too tough on new teachers to think you can sleep-walk through it.

    One detail – not all the rural areas do so well. Here’s a blog from way up state: http://ghsprincipal.edublogs.org/ , look for one of her posts about Native Americans or rural poverty…

    You write nice stuff, thanks.

  4. I too feel more like an actor sometimes. The captive audience is one of the things I love about teaching and a big reasons I am not ready to retire.

    Congrats on the award. The way the kids see you is so important. This year I won my school’s PTA Heart Award. It meant so much, especially when I read the letters from the kids nominating me.

    Keep up the good work.

  5. Fantastic Post! Seems like you’re having a great time in the Classroom. Nice looking-award there too. Congratulations!

    ” Choose how you spend your time with kids individually in the classroom. If they’re growing from the interactions you’re having, then that’s something you foster. If not, then don’t force it. Some people really are just not ready for you yet.” I get this completely.

    Sometimes not doing anything is the best way. All of us have our own people, we all warm up to each other and respond to each other in different ways.

    The other good point is: Make every interaction count. When I started at a school, I always tried to mentally make a note every time a kid walked up to me: What can I do to leave him better after this interaction. I started smiling a lot. Became more supportive. I think thats healthy.

    Shine on, V.


  6. I agree all around! Number 1 is something I can especially relate to, and therefore, of course, consider it a sign of an excellent teacher. 5 & 8 took me a while to absorb, but I think I got there, and I like #12.

    Well…I’m not so sure about the rural kids finding examples. Most examples they might have, in my experience, have gotten the heck out of the boonies.

  7. Pingback: Not About My Salary, But More About My Reality — The Jose Vilson

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