Hope of a Black – Latino Educator (Evolution)

Jose VilsonFeatured, Jose3 Comments

Come here. Please take a seat with me and let’s talk about evolution.

Your morning routine hasn’t changed in years. You roll swiftly out of bed, but your eyes have barely opened yet. You’re thinking about your students before you’re done brushing your teeth. You’re out the door before the grocery stores around the block open. The hustle to the bus then the train get your blood pumping and your feet throbbing. You swipe your MetroCard a few seconds before the train gets there. Your headphones currently blare Chance The Rapper because you need something between hard rap and gospel music. You play FreeCell all the way up to the second to last stop on the A train.

You see students in this neighborhood. Perk up, you.

You get your coffee. A dollar’s never been so valuable. You climb the set of stairs, ignoring the security that doesn’t like you for whatever reason. You’re cordial with adults as you move your card into the “in” slot. You jog up the next set of stairs into your classroom. You sniff around to make sure everything’s in place. You turn on the lights and the AC. You take a deep breath. You’re back in your element.

You have two grades and five classes to teach, each with their own set of needs. You got this.

Lesson plan 1: We will convert numbers in scientific notation to standard form. Eighth graders may or may not fully get it. We will make them care somehow someway.

Lesson plan 2: We will add and subtract fractions with unlike denominators. Seventh graders may or may not already know how to do this. We will be sure they do.

Seventh grade, seventh grade, eighth grade, lunch. You eat sometime between a bacon, egg, and cheese on a roll time and a turkey and swiss on a roll time. You choose the latter.

Prep period, professional learning community time. You’re typing up and taking attendance in a word processor. You’re multi-tasking because if you don’t, you’ll nod off. Your ears are still ringing from that last eighth grade class. You’ve tuned out in intervals. You bring yourself back in time to catch the important stuff.

Seventh grade, eighth grade. End of the day.

You insist that students salute you in the morning and the afternoon. They mostly seem to like you, but you’re not as connected with them as you could be yet. It’s still early. You wiggle your fingers and crack your neck. You close your documents, read your e-mails, clean your students’ desks, and close the classroom door.

You’re back to yourself. Shake it off. You have to go home.

You’re reading the news on social media. More people shot without cause. More people on the street either by protest, eviction, or homelessness. More family members and friends suffering internally. More of your mentees, all of color, suffering in their respective institutions. More people cheering you on, congratulating you on your works. More personal questions about whether any of it matters to your life’s purpose.

More people pretending to disagree with you, but siphoning your works for inspiration anyways. More people not asking you how you’re doing personally, but needing you and you and only you and more you. That’s the way the work works.

You’ve eaten dinner, given your toddler a shower, and had the “how was your day?” conversation with your life partner. You’re at your computer again, about to engage in the process of putting together another essay you hope resonates to someone, anyone out there. It’s clearly working in some ways, but in some ways, you wish you could do more.

You see the only key is hope because, without it, none of the work matters to you. Not parenting. Not classroom teaching. Not Twitter / Facebook or any number of spaces you’re involved in. Not activism. Not living. Blogging has been a life source for more than 10 years and, with well over 1,000 posts, you’ve documented the life of a young Black / Latino teacher.

Now you have the opportunity to build this feeling for dozens, nay, hundreds of people doing work with you. You also have two book proposals waiting for your completion. You also have a toddler who’s telling you how pre-kindergarten went for him daily. You have all this going for you, and enough energy to show for it.

You’re a fan of rituals and routines. And you also need evolution. Perhaps even revolution.

It’s time.

Comments 3

  1. Yes Jose, as usual you get it. You are a teacher who chooses to teach & inspire students who look like us. I applaud that. But what happens when you are just stuck? Here stuck means you need time off and it’s just week 3. Stuck means administration has you doing so much busy work that there is little time for planning & a personal life, so this week you choose personal life! What do YOU do?

  2. I want to leave a word of thanks. I’ve written many comments to you, Jose. But, mostly I delete them before I post. I feel like they are too self-serving, or something. But, maybe this one will help you. I appreciate your writing and it has helped me a great deal. I’m white and teach in a predominantly Hispanic school. The next largest sub-group is black. And then there’s white, Asian, and some Pacific-Islander.

    Your writing helps me think about my students, ethnicity, culture, and, of course, race. I’ve had a lot of my consciousness raised from your blog here and writings on Educolor. I think that one of the things that your writing has done for me is to help me erase the differences between my kids, by acknowledging them. I used to want to ignore the differences. But, I don’t think that works. My students, I think, that is, I sense, feel more comfortable in my classroom because your writing has helped me to talk about the issues. I am able to let them know that the news bothers me, that I’m saddened to see another black man killed. I can tell them that I am sympathetic to refugees from El Salvador escaping violence. They can hear that I think illegal immigration might just be the most American act in the world (to want a better life so badly you’re willing to do anything to get it for you and your family). I’m able to keep it real with them, in part because your writing has told me it was important.

    I make an effort to say their names correctly. I roll my “R’s” when I’m able, and if they want me to. I’m getting better at it. They know that I see them and that I care.

    Thanks for all of that. It sounds like it’s exhausting. I can imagine it would be. I got nervous reading this post thinking it meant you were quitting, or taking a break. I hope not, but I’d understand. If you did, you could at least know that you made a difference for me. I’m a happier teacher today because my kids are happier, too. Differences are just different. I don’t have to correct them. I can accept them. It’s a great gift you’ve given me.

    You wrote: “More people pretending to disagree with you, but siphoning your works for inspiration anyways. More people not asking you how you’re doing personally, but needing you and you and only you and more you. That’s the way the work works.

    You’ve eaten dinner, given your toddler a shower, and had the “how was your day?” conversation with your life partner. You’re at your computer again, about to engage in the process of putting together another essay you hope resonates to someone, anyone out there. It’s clearly working in some ways, but in some ways, you wish you could do more.”

    I would ask you how you are, but I can see from reading this how you are. :) You’re doing a lot. More than most. Thank you for all of it. Maybe tonight you can tell your life partner than the lives of 135 kids on the other side of the country are better because you made me a better teacher with your essays that resonate with me.

    Also, as a language arts teacher, I appreciate your interesting use of the 2nd person. Nicely done. I’m going to quick post this comment before I lose courage and delete it. Have a good day and know you made a difference.

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