Leave Out All The Rest

Jose Vilson Education, Jose

Linkin Park

Linkin Park

This past week, I had the fortune of, among other things, hanging out in North Carolina with the folks from Center of Teaching Quality. I got there (in one piece) right in time for dinner, where teachers from across the country got together and just hung out. It’d been our second time together, so there was no need for introduction. None of us came from the same school district either, so the barriers of politics came down and fast. In these passionate discussions, we got to the heart of what tends to make teachers great: the stories.

While I won’t share everyone else’s, I have no qualms about mine. In my first year of teaching, as a young Black/Latino male teacher, I always got the question, “So are you married?” Naturally, I said, “Yes.” And they’d say, “Who?”

I replied, “Her name is math. Now get back to work!”

Of course, they’d either laugh or just roll their eyes at their (supposedly) corny math teacher. I had to be corny just to keep the heat off me. Of course, one of my knuckleheads decided he’d want to test me. This one (who’ll read this once I send him a link) was always annoying the hell out of me every chance he could, even when he was doing well, and I’d have to call his house for some annoying, knuckleheaded thing he’d do in my class (or not do for that matter).

Nonetheless, he comes up to me one day, a few days after I called his mom and said, “So Mr. Vilson, guess what?”

“Yes, Azzam.”

“I did your wife last night. She was really good.” The rest of the class laughs, but staring and me for a reaction.

I furled my lower lip, just nodding my head while everyone got their giggles in. And I said,

“Funny you should say that because I talked to my wife last night and she said you didn’t do it very well.”

The crowd goes wild. I couldn’t help but say after, “That’s why she came back to me.” More giggles. Of course, he just hung his head and went back to work, seething at his desk. And none of this was devastating or scarring in any way; he’s probably one of the smartest(-ass) students I’ve ever had, and it’s one of my brighter moments of my career. It reminds me how, above all else, people in the classroom are just that: people. We can be our sarcastic, funny, irreverent selves without losing that respect for each other.

If those of us in the position to help people leave out all the rest of the crap, like the politics, the nonsense, the bochinche (the gossip), and the other minutae of our professions, we get to something a lot more substantive, like getting past the skin of a pineapple or even that overplayed books vs. cover metaphor. There’s a passion and love for those of us who are part-time masochists, part-time practitioners, and full-time people-movers that can’t be substituted by the more soul-less and redundant stuff, even with less stress and more pay.

Then again, if we left out all the rest of the minutae, would we have more people in those profession? Possibly. Until then, we’re all in this together …

Jose, who cannot believe it’s already August …