I Do This In My Sleep, True Story …

Jose VilsonEducation9 Comments

spidey3.jpgBefore I begin, let me just say that when people make absurd comments, it doesn’t bother me much. It’s a gut-check and it keeps me humble, but I reserve the comment to come back with the flame and the fire. Free speech allows for someone to make an absurd comment to me, but it also allows me to slap ’em right back.

Psh …

Anyways, I almost literally did my first day in my sleep. I was every bit as enthusiastic as Ron Clark mentions in the Excellent 11, which I’m reading now and will review once I finish it. Last night, after writing my blog about the Fellows program, I decided it was time to recalibrate my sleeping clock and try to get some shut-eye at 10pm. Indeed I was in bed by then, but I really went to sleep at 2am, and for the 4 hours or so of mindless tossing and turning, I went through a process of oscillating positive and negative thoughts.

Even right now, I don’t necessarily know how apt I am for teaching 6th graders. They’re munchkins and still 1/2-people. Yet it’s a lot of pressure since the 6th grade is their last hurrah of childhood. Today, though, I doubt anyone could tell the difference. I dressed professionally: white-collared shirt, blue tie, black pants, and brown shoes. Needless to say, I was probably the sharpest looking in the building, and most teachers preferred the open collared look.

More importantly though, my demeanor was exactly what I wanted to project. I had a sense of humor, but there was no time for games. Everything I spoke about was very necessary to hear, and thus, I needed everyone’s undivided attention … and for the first time in my teaching career, I got a good 95% of it.

My first day script included some of the following:

– I started off the party with a short introduction of myself. Very short. And that’s all I needed.
– I proceeded to discuss my 3 principles: 1) Be the change you want to see in the world, 2) Freedom is not free. 3) Walk on water.

I thought of the first two for a while, but the third came to me on the A-train this morning, and it was so true to me. Even with the diverse inspirations that I got the principles from (Gandhi for the first and Jay-Z for the third), the kids definitely understood it and took to it. I’m having them memorize and learn the principles for tomorrow. That might be against Bloom’s Taxonomy, but f*** it. Charge it to the game.

– Asked them “What does math mean to you?” I found it interesting because I actually had the kids read aloud their answers, and then ask others about what the person just said. It was thoroughly successful and a change from my first two years of teaching, when I didn’t necessarily have a great beginning activity for them to start out with. I asked other members of the class to elaborate on what the reader of the moment was saying.

– Plus, even on the first day, my classroom is looking much better than it did last year at this time. I still have a ways to go, but that’s got a lot to do with the unavailability for printers and such.

Of course there were a couple of snags here and there, but for the most part, it was much more successful and organized. Tomorrow, I call parents. Tonight, though, I sleep.

Good night. I’ll be around the blogosphere to see what’s up with you all soon …


Comments 9

  1. Interesting post – and I have a story that’s incredibly similar.

    I have lots and lots of trouble sleeping. I just don’t do it very often. Instead of being awake 16 hours a day and sleeping through the night, I generally go about 36 hours and then sleep for 10. Needless to say, my schedule isn’t always traditional [though it’s been weirdly regular lately… thank God].

    Anyway, I had a conversation with a school administrator about coming in for a day. I’d never popped in there for any reason, so I wanted to make sure the first impression was a good one.

    The call came unexpectedly about an hour before their school day started – this normally wouldn’t be a problem, but I hadn’t slept in about 40 hours. I wasn’t about to sleep, either… I had an engagement that night and needed rest – I’d taken a triple dose of sleeping pills to make sure I’d be ready for that night.

    I had no choice but to come in that day on no sleep and a stomach full of sleepers. Sweet lord, that was a rough day.

    It worked out fine – the day was wonderful, for some reason I felt good and I worked in that school again. But when I see someone write that they almost worked in their sleep, I know exactly what they’re talking about.

  2. Off topic, but I see you went to CCNY. Did you take any courses with Prof Posamentier? I took all my math ed, both grad and undergrad there with him. I loved the school and the guy. I really learned a lot about teaching from him. I know he is Dean of Education now.

  3. When you get older, you’ll need your rest. ;-)

    I love your three principles!

    “1) Be the change you want to see in the world, 2) Freedom is not free. 3) Walk on water.”

    I think I may be quoting you in the near future.

  4. I hope you had a blissfull night of sleep! Last year, I had a lot of trouble sleeping. Some nights, I couldn’t get the munchkin-faces off my retina. I even dreamed about them sometimes. Í hope and expect that thi year I will manage to leave the impressions behind before hitting the bed.

    I totally relate to what you write about the 12 year olds. So far, although I have really been looking forward to teaching that group, I haven’t found the right tone of voice and the right approach to make them tick. You can’t relate to them as little children. At the same time, they are too little and irresponsible to be dealt with as adults, or even adolescents. They are really something in the middle. I hope you will find a way to deal with them and make the year an inspiring one (and I wish myself the same :-)

    I love your principles!

  5. From the description of your first day, one can infer that you actually enjoyed meeting your little 6th graders. Don’t be fooled-they are not that little. Quickly you will see how they all of sudden grow up and then you have to do the Mr. Vilson look. Poor them, they don’t know about the Iceman.

    First day jitters is a good sign. It means you still are on your game as an educator. You were looking forward to meeting the new faces and establishing your non-negotiables. The three principles you mentioned are different from what the kids have been exposed to at that school setting, therefore it makes you unique already. Also, you have established a reputation at your school so these little munchkins have heard the Vilson myth, tall tales and some accurate details about you as a teacher. Through the grapevine I hear you are quite the math teacher sir- muchos kudos to you on establishing a reputation, an impressive one.

    Enjoy this year, your third year as a teacher. You have learned from the previous faux pas and from the veterans around you. By this time you have stored in your file so many quick comments, have developed the eyes on the back of your head, bionic hearing, and the “teacher look” which will freeze the lil ones. There will be new learning going on and your will polish and refine the skills you already possess. The beauty of teaching the 6th graders is that somehow they are still in awe of you and they love the recognition they get from their teachers. Cannot wait to hear your tales of the 6th grade.

  6. Freedom of speech is a great thing. :)
    Sounds like you had a good first day. Getting kids to pay attention isn’t always easy. Sounds like you are one of the cooler teachers though.

  7. Pingback: The Jose Vilson » Give It All You Got

  8. Post

    @ MKT, wow, that’s serious. You might wanna ease up on the drugs right? Glad you made it through.

    @ pissoffteacher: no i didn’t, but he’s the head of the department, so he’s pretty busy I’m sure

    @ repairman: feel free.

    @ frumteacher: Yeah that whole sleeping episode was wild, but rest assured that I knocked out so early yesterday I didn’t know what hit me till I woke up

    @ luzmaria: tell me about it. those first day jitters were something else

    @ becca: cool teacher? who me? nah …

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