If You Are What You Say You Are

Jose Vilson Jose

Superstar,” an art teacher once said, in reference to me in the classroom.

Sometimes I hear it ring in my head in the morning while I’m washing my face, brushing my teeth, and looking at these life-worn eyes. Every minute after that is in preparation for some upcoming performance, maybe even a battle. I watch Sportscenter in the morning, or maybe some NY1 so I can get the weather and the latest on the news, so I’m ready for any inclement weather. I walk down the streets while it’s still a shade dark even now, humming a song that hopefully congests the channels to my foremost thoughts, where the negative ones often invade and parade. I’m often my own worst enemy, and if Lucifer exists, he plays awful tricks in my mind, with worst-case scenarios replaying throughout the little piece of time I have to unwind, really.

The cold, orange and beige benches of the subway do nothing for my enthusiasm or lack thereof to go to school. Traveling 40+ minutes on the train, I have no choice but to play the most inspirational tracks I have. The last track I play on my iPod before I get near the school building rings true to so many of us who give more than a real percentage allows: “Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve. It’s the anti-wrestling theme song. Whereas before the gym, I choose “What You Know” by T.I. or “Ante Up” by M.O.P., I choose the more subdued and slightly more vulnerable tones of the one-hit wonder.

But I also find it fitting because in my random bits of utter humility, I often wonder if I deserve all the acclaim, praise, and blessings I’m thrown. I should just stick to the job description and not what it inherently means. I shouldn’t take on any more than what I’m actually paid to do nor should I pontificate too often on developing the human side of the kids. I shouldn’t focus on the aesthetic of our occupation, and possibly developing the young ones into older and wiser ones, helping them arrive at their own conclusions about what success looks like but also guiding them and showing them alternatives that might work to their benefit. I shouldn’t seek to inspire, and follow the advice of those who say, “Well if you don’t inspire them, believe me, it’ll get done.”

I also know that I facilitate a special role for these kids, whom have grown more attached to me and my energy as the year’s gone on. Some of my more turbulent kids have made almost 180-degree turns in favor of focusing on the positive. The males especially have taken a liking to me, because finding a male teacher who understands their struggle in the school system has become increasingly difficult. The female students have taken a liking to me strictly off my ability to translate math for them, and them feel part of a usually male-dominated conversation. The whole school gets snippets of this energy through my efforts with Penny Harvest and math.

“You? YOU!? Psh, you’re a superstar. Please. The kids really like you, they love you and respect you, and you can tell by the way they talk about you, and how they follow you. Every kid’s always going to be a little tough, especially in this school, but you? No, you got it.”

If you say so, lady. With 30 school days left, the lights are definitely on high …

jose, who won’t be writing tomorrow because of the big Glow In The Dark concert with Lupe Fiasco, NERD, Rihanna, and Kanye West …