Don't Only Talk Like It, Walk Like It - The Jose Vilson

Don’t Only Talk Like It, Walk Like It

by Jose Vilson on September 3, 2009

in Jose



I‘ve just started reading a couple of books quasi-simultaneously: Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire and The Speed of Trust by Stephen M. R. Covey. While both seem a little incongruous, both served points about leadership we often lose in the midst of ego-lifting and pontificating.

The trust of the people in the leaders reflects the confidence of the leaders in the people.
- Paulo Freire


The difference between a high- and low-trust relationship is palpable! Take communication. In a high-trust relationship, you can say the wrong thing, and people will still get your meaning. In a low-trust relationship, you can be very measured, even precise, and they’ll still misinterpret you.
- Stephen M. R. Covey

And in an instant, it came to me: I’ve been forgetting what real leadership looks like, and have been nervous about my upcoming opportunity for all the wrong reasons. Even with the leadership training I’ve had since I was in middle school, I forgot those principles because a) not everyone around me has the same ideas about leadership around me and b) I almost let the idea of being a leader in the midst of a staff much more venerable than I get in the way.

Then, something clicked.

I’m not sure whether it was the Jamaican sun toasting my shins or my switch to Raisin Bran in the morning, but I decided on a few tenets for myself:

1) I’m going to be courageous about everything and anything I do with my work at school.

2) I’m going to remain as positive and affable as possible in my work.

3) I’m going to communicate in a transparent and efficient fashion, letting those who have expertise share it and letting everyone in the conversation.

I don’t have these problems on a regular level, but it’s been said many times that I need to either enhance or enact on these qualities more often. My writing at this point in my life is stronger than my speaking (there were a couple of points in my life where the opposite was true), and the more I see on my plate, the more I realize how full and groggy I’m going to be after having my fill. Nonetheless, if I believe strongly enough in the mission of helping children excel in the school, then I need to do the best job possible in the role I’m filling.

And if everyone considers this as my true and only motive, then the aforementioned gossip, hate, and mischief will dissipate. After all, I’m as confident that they believe in this mission as much as I do. That’s important.

Mr. V, who’s on a mission …

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Speaks Beliefs September 3, 2009 at 10:41 pm

Thanks for this. I need to work on #1 myself. Courageous in some aspects of my role, in others, I’m a work in progress.


Francis L.Holland September 3, 2009 at 11:31 pm

I first read Pedagogy of the Oppressed as part of my undergraduate Latin American Studies major (which turned to into Spanish because I learned Spanish long before I could coherently describe what I had learned about Latin American). (See What I learned in Chile, from Gen. Augusto Pinochet.)

That Paulo Freire was a genius. I love his “banking” metaphor, although I prefer to think of it as a “basket”, because I can show it to students using the wastebasket in the classroom.

I’m the teacher so all year I give them stuff to put in their basket, and if they take all of that stuff back out and write it on the final exam just as I gave it to them, then they pass. (If you think about teaching English to Latin Americans, you realize that they already know hundreds of English words and expressions, songs and pronunciations (cultural and linguistic imperialism, anyone?) before they participate in any formal English class, and so they need to build on what they know, rather than come to the classroom assuming they know nothing at all!)

The traditional teaching method is to assume that students come to the classroom with their heads like empty baskets, and the teacher fills the basket over the course of the semester. The assumption is that the basket is empty when they get to the classroom and when they leave it has only increased by what the teacher put in the basket.

Try this: Show students a wastebasket and tell them to think of it as students’ brains in the banking method. Then start dropping things into the wastebasket. That’s the traditional learning process. Teacher fills students’ heads with stuff, and students demonstrate that their heads are filled by copying that stuff onto the final exam.

Now, ask the students if one of them would like to put something in the basket. When they try, swiftly withdraw the basket and remind them that, as students, they have NO RIGHT to put things in the basket. Only the teacher can do that. It’s a great way of showing how oppressive and arbitrary the “banking” method of teaching is, and how revolutionary it is to help students become actors in their learning process.

In fact, we all have to share what’s in our baskets with each other, and discover more in the “praxis,” (>>>>>>Observation, Analysis, Deduction, Action/Practice and Reflection>>>>>) and the sum is greater than its individual parts. That’s the constant circle of verified learning. If students aren’t empowered perceive the value of what they already know (particularly when learning English) as a significant part of what they need to know, and to discover more, then they are just objects acted upon by a teacher who is also just a cog in a system.

If you spend a year trying to teach students English, but students can’t speak or understand any English at the end of the year, have you “taught” them anything?

No, because the proof of learning is being able to take successful action based on what you’ve learned, and only by reflecting on what happens when you’ve taken that action can you know whether what you’ve been “taught” actually has any communicative value. And so, without the constant circle of learning and action and reflection, there IS no learning.

The reason linguistic immersion is so much better and faster a method of language learning, for example, is that students are constantly observing the linguistic input around them, analyzing it, making deductions about how this new language works, and then trying to speak (action/practice). If they are understood then they can reflect on that experience and see that they’ve learned something useful,and continue to use it.

If they are NOT understood then they can also reflect on that, realize something is wrong, and begin the observation, analysis and deduction process over again to see what they need to fix in order to get a better result, i.e. be understood.

The immediacy of the relationship betweeen practice and reflection and more action makes real learning possible.

Here’s something I’ve learned:

Human Genome Project Disproves
Centuries-Old Concept of “Race”

According to the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research, Human Genome Program: “DNA studies do not indicate that separate classifiable subspecies (races) exist within modern humans. While different genes for physical traits such as skin and hair color can be identified between individuals, no consistent patterns of genes across the human genome exist to distinguish one race from another. There also is no genetic basis for divisions of human ethnicity. People who have lived in the same geographic region for many generations may have some alleles in common, but no allele will be found in all members of one population and in no members of any other.”

In other words, the Human Genome Project has proven that, as a matter of scientific fact, that which we call “race” does not exist as a matter of biology, and so all references to “race” are references to a fallacy.

But “skin color” and skin-color-aroused interactions of all sorts do obviously exist, as do “linguistic groups” and “cultural groups” sub-cultures. There are even ethnic groups, but the Human Genome Project proved that they are based on culture and not DNA.

I prefer the term “Black People” to the “black race”, since the former is an identifiable political and cultural group (look how we turned out for Barack Obama) while the latter is just superfluous mental noise still echoing from a white supremacy fantasy concept that metastacized over the last four hundred years.


Linda September 8, 2009 at 12:33 pm

As Gandhi said…and it does seem cliche at times…”You must be the change you want to see in the world.” You alone, if we choose to be global in our thinking, has the opportunity to change the world, one student at a time. Commited? I hope you are dear man, for without those with a true heart, an intelligent mind, and a commitment, the generation you are helping to mold will fall flat. We can’t afford that, as a Nation, as part of a world culture, and as humans seeking positive change.

Covey and Freire are on the right track. Mutual trust, and faith that the other has as much invested as you…and COURAGE to shine the way only YOU can shine. That is where leadership comes in and begins it’s as ascent out of the mundane.

Shine on brother! Shine on! They need you!



jon wortmann September 10, 2009 at 6:37 pm

Love to talk communication any time. Both quotes nail the challenge of leadership. If you don’t believe in your people, they will see it and run. If they don’t believe, there is no relationship. Manage your ethos and you will build trust like big city, NYC, reach so high they make you dizzy skyscrapers and dreams.


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