If You Don’t Give Me Heaven, I Raise Hell

Jose 2 Comments

Heaven or Hell

Did we cross the threshold of teacher complacency yet?

Today, Pernille Ripp asked “How many of us blog about our philosophies and classroom changes but are too afraid to tell our face to face colleagues?” to her followers. I responded, “I used to. This year, I’ve decided against it.” Some, including Mary Beth Hertz, were surprised. She said, “… was just suprised to hear that from someone who spoke his mind on YouTube :). It is sad how scared people are.” Sure is. Also, endemic of a system that crushes dissent far too readily.

I get who this comes from. First, let me say that my blog rantings over the last few years came from the burning desire to say something and make it count. For the first time, I had a vehicle where I could reflect on my personal and professional growth without interruption or courtesy. On a blog, I don’t have to wait for someone to readjust their face after I’ve shocked them or wait for them to get their interjection out before finishing a complete thought. Once I’m done, I hit “Publish” and let the opinions fall where they may. Almost every blogger would agree with me on this point.

Soon, it became this silver soapbox where most of my posts get enough attention to influence a few thousand people a week, at least according to Google. What most public bloggers like me also comes to gripes with is the harsh reality that Google can’t filter their blogs from the very eyes that they’re trying to avoid in some ways. While I blogged here, I kept most of my blogging to myself in school, carefully alluding to it only when it had any relevance to some professional development session I had to attend. Even then, I’d just mention it was “business” and “not about you.”

There came a point sometime last summer where I decided that the person in this blog had to coalesce with the representative I had built at work. We know what that’s about, too. There’s the person that swears to Biggie and Metallica in the bar while taking shots of tequila, and there’s the person in the three-piece suit who’s about to meet with representatives from the NYC Department of Education. There’s the person who makes a mental list of all the things their administrator or fellow teachers did to piss them off one day, and there’s the person who has to collaborate with them to improve student achievement the next day. There’s the person who blogs about their ideal school system, and the person who wouldn’t dare tell their school system that they’re far from it.

Lest they be shunned, ostracized, thrown into a dizzying schedule with little support, or, tenured or not, fired.

From my perspective, it was one thing for an entire school system to block my website from their servers years before “social media” entered the national zeitgeist. It was quite another to have education consultants, third party partners, and people from within the NYC Department of Ed actually reading my blog. That’s become my reality over the last year, and, rather than make me recalcitrant about the cursing and allusions to sex, I decided to hone my message a little more. It made me get more passionate, more inclusive, and more thorough. I had to do more research, and I had to get more passionate. I’ll trade in my swearing for honesty any day of the week.

Further, I had to be more like the person they see everyday. Also, that person has to be more like the man who writes this blog, too.

Now that I’m taking on this demeanor of anti-hero, I might as well tell it like it is. If people find out, then good for them. I’m about ready to tell them to their faces anyways.

Mr. Vilson, who just started the year off right …

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Jose VilsonIf You Don’t Give Me Heaven, I Raise Hell

Comments 2

  1. Mary Beth Hertz

    I think the most important point you make, Jose, is that our message needs to be clear. One of the most important things we can do when using social media of any kind is to always represent ourselves well. I’m always glad to hear people tell me when they meet me for the first time that I’m just like I am online. At work, people always look to me to say something or ask a probing question at staff meetings or PD trainings. But enough about me :) I’m wondering how much of the change you have experienced you think is due to plain old maturity as a person, a learner and a thinker. I know for me it has definitely played a part.

  2. Debbie

    Imagine how I feel, as a parent, advocating for both my Special Ed daughters. I talk on Twitter and on my blogs as MissShuganah because I could be in harm’s way. Then again I’ve already had two DCFS investigations, so what is the worse I can experience? I don’t want to find out, truthfully. Speaking out in person is harder because behind the statement of “You know her better than anyone,” is the message, “Go play on the freeway.”

    As I’ve stated repeatedly on Twitter, it’s essential for educators to invite parents into the dialog because you need our support and we need to know that our voices matter. In real life I am up against it. I have teachers and principals who either are dismissive of me or perhaps I have a check mark next to troublemaker on a list. The possibility puts me in a very vulnerable position.

    So I do the next best thing. I raise hell on Twitter where the discourse is largely civil and where I feel safe. I don’t need to convince other parents of special needs kids. They get it. Some are resigned to a less than rosy future for their kids. I need the teachers and administrators to get it and to be inclined to help me change education for all from the bottom up.

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