Jose Vilson Education, Resources

Linkin Park, "Faint"

Energized from this past weekend’s trip to the Center for Teaching Quality (TeacherSolutions 2030 retreat), I focused all my energies on ensuring that my first and second period class of math would kick ass. My students showed tremendous gains in their transformations test they took the week before, and the last quiz they took on Thursday showed elements of strong understanding in inequalities. Today, I wanted to change my own energy a bit to demonstrate how much I appreciated their efforts.

For the most part, I didn’t think it was a terrible class. I got through the lesson in a reasonable amount of time (15 minutes or less), and had them work and read through some problems on inequalities that I appreciated. Then, I saw some of the deleterious effects of lightly loosening my grip on the class. The class usually hums, but this was closer to a roar. Some of my boys engaged in a tit for tat about paper throwing on the left side of the classroom. The right side and middle weren’t faring too bad, but I couldn’t help but see how these little pieces added up to a mess I just didn’t like.

I started with the boys throwing paper and instigating others into doing so. One by one, I told them I’d speak to them after class. One boy, who I’ve been working on since he came into my class since December, decided to get disrespectful with me after I chastised (note: not yell) at the boys for continuing to yell at each other after multiple warnings. I haven’t had to ask anyone to leave my class or report them to the dean’s office all year, but today, something just didn’t feel right. I asked him to go to the dean’s office.

After he left and I separated the boys who disappointed me, I sat down and gave my students a talk like this:

Excuse me. Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t run a prison. I give you all certain freedoms that other classes don’t enjoy because, for the most part, you’ve been responsible with your personal stuff. However, if you’re asking me to be harsher, then I can do that and I just won’t trust that you can handle that freedom. Honestly, some of you have really disappointed me today and you’re preventing others from succeeding just because you’re not feeling well today. And I’m not going to accept it. Utterly disappointed.

I walked over and checked students’ work at the end, as usual. Had a discussion with five of the boys involved (the one I reprimanded earlier had his father in later on in the day for another infraction right after my period). Just then, I tweeted a bit about how students hold teachers accountable everyday for their actions, so naturally, we’re more prone to self-reflection if we really want to get better in our practice.

The thought jolted me before my mid-morning toast and coffee.

A few hours later, I went to have lunch. I ordered a turkey breast and ham sandwich on a wrap, asked that it be toasted. “Somebody help!” I mistakenly thought the man with the bubble jacket was trying to rob the store of some change. Instead, he was being held up by the jacket by the man behind the counter. He fainted just before getting his change from the man behind the counter. Bills fell to the floor with his body sprawled against the wall and the floor. While we tried to straighten him out, he asked me and the store’s district manager what happened. He was developing a swollen forehead and the rest of the body didn’t move for a good 3 minutes.

While the district manager got a compress, I helped the man behind the counter call 911, thinking I should stay at least until an ambulance came. The rest of the store tried to keep calm, running business as usual while we dealt with the situation. The fainting man stood up after a few minutes with our help, and was seated in a nearby chair. He just got out of the gym. He didn’t know what came over him. He blinked and next thing you know, he’s looking up at us wondering why we were putting his money back in his pocket.

After the manager told me he and the rest of the team had it under control, I walked back out into the brisk air, lunch in hand, with an open jacket. I’ve done a fair amount of these “code blue” situations in recent months and I’m usually cool in these moments, but something unusual came over me after the incident. It also reminded me that the next day is going to be another day to redo my earlier faults.

Much like the man who fainted, I was granted another chance to breathe, and continue trying out this life. Just that alone makes the struggle worth it.

Jose, who can’t imagine people saying teaching learning is easy …