School Hallway

Politicizing Education Pt. 1 (or There Are Kids In The Hallway, Too)

Jose Vilson Jose 5 Comments

School Hallway

School Hallway

Stay in the classroom and don’t think about what happens outside of it.

That’s your best advice to me.

At first, I was resigned to the fact that I’m just a teacher, whose salary, benefits, and other personal information is easy to look up in a few clicks. All the data on me, including how many students I’ve taught, what they got on their math scores since I’ve taught them and before, their classifications, and somewhere, my teaching rating, has been made public on some level for those interested in seeing how “effective” a teacher I am. All these eyes get a chance to peer into my window: deans, APs, fellow teachers, students, parents, coaches, district consultants, managers, and a cavalcade of directors from the highest reaches of my educational system get to observe whether or not my pedagogy meets their standards for teaching middle schoolers.

Yet, I’m asked to concentrate on the classroom.

I’ve been to far too many professional development sessions, meetings, pow-wows, gatherings, readings, and dissertations to not see just how politicized the school system has become. When talking with fellow education leaders, I made a rough estimate about how often kids are actually involved in the decision-making of their own schools. I conjectured that the higher up you get in the system, the more you’re less inclined to hear what students and parents have and will say. Even at the principals’ level, I’d estimate they talk about kids specifically 40% of the time.

That’s a low number. Far too low.

And I get it. They gotta worry about 20,000 things that I may not even understand. Principals and the like have a higher degree of worry when it comes to certain elements of the school. Teachers don’t have to worry as much whether a parent is pissed off at them. Principals are also responsible for the school in ways that we as teachers can’t understand until we’ve actually been in that position. Again, I get all that.

So I sit there, wondering when we’ll actually talk about the students whenever possible. Do the political games we play, the unshaked hands, the misspoken names, the “I didn’t say that’s”, and the use of the improper hot word of the moment in education, really matter at the end of the day? Apparently so. While these meetings happen, we got students in the hallway, across the street, in front of the grocery store asking us, pleading with us, to make these schools theirs.

And all we need to do is ask them.

Jose, who wants to know what kind of input kids should have in their own schools … honestly …

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 VilsonPoliticizing Education Pt. 1 (or There Are Kids In The Hallway, Too)

Comments 5

  1. teachin'

    “While these meetings happen, we got students in the hallway, across the street, in front of the grocery store asking us, pleading with us, to make these schools theirs.”

    That line actually made me tear up, because it breaks my heart how disengaged many students feel from their school.

  2. NubianPrince

    Every day of my teaching life, I ponder how we can transcend the bureaucracy and just get to serving youth. Few want to do the dirty work of learning and knowing these students. The real stimulus for the educational system must come from devoted hearts, minds and actions, not merely from more money to feed the machine. True education is an act of love, where the formation of knowledge is first and foremost built upon relationship. Otherwise, the school system is just another bastion of colonialism, in which students are territory to conquer, occupy and exploit for personal gain.

  3. theprisonerswife

    “Otherwise, the school system is just another bastion of colonialism, in which students are territory to conquer, occupy and exploit for personal gain”–NubianPrince

    so true. i know my students are not connected to the school in the least bit. there are few things that truly get them involved beyond books, which is probably why many of them can’t wait to leave. luckily, i have a strong team. we work hard to service our group of students, but that’s not the norm. the districts, especially the LARGE ones like my own need to do some serious soul searching. they claim they want to educate ALL kids, but yet all of our schools still aren’t equal. many schools don’t have technology, while others have a laptop for each student. something isn’t right. Colin Powel once said that education is the second civil war. i HOPE we get it together so our kids will win.

  4. Jonathan

    But how real this is depends on your school, and it’s one of the big dividing lines between schools. I know schools where each teacher barely knows their own students (exacerbated by monstrously large teaching loads with lots of very needy kids with issues + ), and where the administrators know fewer kids. And I know schools where most of the adults know most of the kids, and more than just their names.

  5. Post
    Author
    Jose

    Wow, all thought provoking comments. Thanks.

    teachin’, I always think about these things when I’m walking down hallways and listening to the news. It’s probably deeper than even I can fathom. Students feel some sort of disengagement because either the adults set that tone for them or they don’t trust the adults to set that tone for them. (among a million other reasons).

    Dang, NubianPrince, you touched a nerve there:

    Otherwise, the school system is just another bastion of colonialism, in which students are territory to conquer, occupy and exploit for personal gain.

    I often wonder if we’re agents for that mess.

    Civil War sounds almost right. It’s a little nuts, but it’s so much bigger than even that. This is a war of ideas. So I think.

    Jonathan, you’re right: it does depend on the school. Yet, I’d like to see a study on that looking across the school system. My hypothesis is that this sort of sentiment is shared as a whole. Just saying. We do have those prevalent extremes, too, and I wonder how either of them look like. Seriously.

Leave a Reply