poorstudent

Blog Action Day: They’re Not That Much Different

Jose 11 Comments

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 …

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Jose VilsonBlog Action Day: They’re Not That Much Different

Comments 11

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    Jose

    I guess you’re right, but do you think that actually prohibits teachers from trying to inspire the students? There has to be alternative ways of addressing the issue.

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  3. Tracy Rosen

    Be interested in them. That is inspiring – for a child to know that there is at least one adult who is generally interested in who they are as a person (and not just as a student). THAT is inspiring.

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  5. The Urban Scientist

    “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. ”

    Yes, Yes, YES. It is called the Pedagogy of Poverty by Haberman
    http://www.wmich.edu/coe/tles/urban/Haberman.pdf – this is a summary.

    I worked in an urban high school for a while, so I feel you. In fact, I written very similar posts and comment about how the Pedagogy of Poverty is deeper than just school interactions. I believe there is something subconcious and perversive in the way society sees and treats urban poor people. And All of these behaviors and attitudes prepare urban poor people for a life of struggle, not success.
    Read up on it.

    The Urban Scientists last blog post..Blog Action Day: Poverty

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    Jose

    Yes I got hit with the knowledge today. Thanks for the drop-by TUS. I’ve been reading up on it more than I can handle actually (made it through most of “Savage Inequalities” before I almost had a serious meltdown). But I haven’t seen your resource before. I must check it out for myself.

  7. pre_k

    Inspiring children. Indeed that is a task easier said than done. when i was a kid challenges inspired me. my sister taught me how to multiply and almost instantly i tried to race my aunt in multiplication seeing who an do it the fastest. granted i lost every time. the most important thing to me was that someone was there engaging me and my madness at the time. personally i don’t think there is a silver bullet to inspiring children but giving a child video games, internet access, and sending them on there way is a sure fire way not to inspire them.

    believe it or not there were many days i went to work with my father who was a mechanic, and in one of my many days milling around the shop told me never to become a mechanic unless i wanted all ten of my fingers broken by him. sometimes it is as simple as telling a kid a few of the things you appreciate about him or her because when they are in that informative age all they want to do is please people. you know, i once heard my grandmother bragging about me to one of her friends about how i would come straight home from school and immediately do my homework. do yo know I continued that habit up until the 8th grade. this is not to say coddle your children because that same lady who loved my work ethic also called me ‘flicted’ (an old person word for uncoordinated).

    while there is no strict formula the method seems pretty simple. stay involved by asking questions. indulge their interest if that means playing a video game poorly once in a while or even watch them play a video game or a sport. Praise them when they are doing good (this is important. while we like to think that we shouldn’t praise people for doing what we think they are suppose to do it makes a world of difference for it shows you are watching). and when they go wrong try to show them a different way of doing things.. and lastly remain consistent because children notice everything (even if they don’t understand what they are seeing) and I mean everything.

    alright i am done blogging in your comment box… piece and blessings..

  8. Matt Amaral

    Jose,
    Great question. Sometimes I think being inspirational is more important than my curriculum. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a class in our credential programs dedicated to just that?

    I like what you say about not feeling the students are any different from you, now matter where they come from. I couldn’t agree more. I think it’s important that we keep in mind the troubles a lot of our kids have, and think about how we would deal with it if we were in their shoes at that age.

    In the end, sometimes it’s better to help a kid believe in him/herself than to get them to score a little higher on the STAR test.

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