Blog Action Day: They’re Not That Much Different

Jose Vilson Education, Jose

Following up yesterday’s post, I pretty much sat there, knowing that I had more than my fair share to say about this topic. I can’t tell you how many times people think I exist in a world of pure hyperbole and hallucination when I tell them about the “ol’ factory”. The stories of these children’s lives only gets more insane the more I find out. Recently, I’ve read a few posts from a few bloggers who are already at a crossroads when it comes to teaching students who aren’t from their own background. Nevermind the eccentricities of national crisis, war, economic downturn, gentrification, rising unemployment, dirty politricks, and all the ills of the world for a moment, because at the root of it all is how we as citizens have a responsibility to our present and future leaders to teach them more than survival but success.

I’m not excluding myself from culpability either, but sometimes I feel like we as humans have started to rely on individualistic goals more than the collective, and that byproduct comes to my class every school day, more concerned with the ephemeral than the permanent, the cool rather than the collective, and wars rather than peace. Some of you may already be thinking: Jose, the kids you teach are just at that age. But there’s a difference. I don’t see these kids as any different from me, and even with all the problems they have at home, I don’t even give off a hint that they’re foreign, no matter how different they are from me. Yet, the frequency of students with problems at home has become a little more frequent than I’m used to.

My philosophy has always been that we need to give every child a fair shot at getting an education, even when mainstream society inherently doesn’t want them to. Do we just sit there and let the 10 – 15% who do well in our class be the “standard-bearers” for the class because we inherently favor them or do we as educators strive for more? Can we use the fact that many of our most impoverished and troubled students desperately seek a way out to inspire them and make them see in themselves something they can?

Then again, who will provide professional development on how teachers should care?

Who’ll draw up that PowerPoint? Who’ll make a bar chart / pie chart to show the percentage of teachers who care in a building versus those who don’t? Who will tell the truth? And will we give a school based on that factor as well? How can we get a professional developer to inspire teachers without sounding too Freedom Writers or Save-The-Worldish? Can we inject a little more positivity amongst the students instead of just throwing them shade all the time? And I do mean, we, because even I have to catch myself from being punitive.

How can we look at students as more than just numbers?

I just get heated when I see people who’ve never been in a classroom as grown-ups trying to explain to me how different they are compared to kids these days. Even I fell into that trap, but then I got to thinking how my elders thought so low of people like me, and that must be how some of my own students feel about the adults around them. And teaching in urban schools is certainly a different experience, but sometimes I wonder if the techniques we use to promote good classroom management keep students in a poverty mentality. I’m also slightly heated at many a teacher because, for all the accolades and praises some of them get, they still manage to treat children like the dirt beneath them.

So here’s a question for all of you:

How do we get more teachers to actually inspire in their classrooms? For non-teachers, what in our society do we need to change in order to inspire more children? As a student, who inspired you the most? Do we as a society do a good enough job of having equal treatment for all students?

jose, who really wants to know the answers to the questions, because I could be wrong …