Jose Vilson Education, Jose

Dear disciplinarians and other enforcers within our school communities,

Please note: you’re trying to keep kids in school, not keep them out of it.

Let me first admit my own biases in this topic, of which I have a couple. As a teacher, I readily admit that I can reasonably reach 90% of my given class, given that my classes aren’t considered “magnet” or “gifted and talented” by most academic measures. I tend to get the classes people forget, the ones that have to fend for themselves in the swarm of adult confusion, the ones that no one human being can nurture at one time. The other 10% simply fall through the cracks for reasons I haven’t comprehended yet. I always blame myself, but it could be an issue between us.

There’s a difference between a child being my student and being someone’s child.

While it’s true that academically, I have to seek ways to motivate them (some I nudge harder than others), I don’t interact with students to embarrass them or show them I’m the top dog. That’s what scares me about some of the people I see and hear schooling our children. They think that just because they have a certain title or station in life that they can talk to kids a certain way.

Let me take this one step further: you’re not in the business of prepping kids for jail time. When you antagonize students just to get them out of the school and threatening to call police, you’re asking for them to self-identify as criminals. When you give a child a huge punishment for a minor offense, you’re telling them that schools and thus life can’t be fair. When you yell at a child in the middle of a test or quiz while disrupting everyone else from When you even give a look to a child for no real basis trying to initiate a reaction, you’re telling them that they have to be on the defensive at all times, even in a supposedly safe environment.

I won’t even get into the topic of metal detectors here, but looking at a child and instinctively pushing him towards jail does you no favors.

Instead, try pulling a student aside without the humiliation of everyone else knowing. Try getting to know the kids that do well, volunteer a lot, and try hard in their studies. Try working with adults in the building who do have a good relationship with the child and, wherever possible, emulate those behaviors. If the teacher constantly sends someone to you who you know can do better, see if the child needs help adjusting to that classroom or give the teacher some management tips for that child.

On my end, it’s great to have another adult who helps enforce things like uniform policy and excessively disruptive behavior, but I know I have to deal with the majority of it on my own. I also don’t think I need to send students out of the classroom when my primary purpose in the building is to ensure that my children learn. I couldn’t care less whether the student has on shorts and a durag or a three-piece suit, I will teach him or her.

Because as hard as I try to push my students, they understand I’m a teacher, not a prison guard. It’s also why I advocate for rehabilitation of prisoners, not severe punishment. Same with our kids.

Provoke change in the system.

Jose, who kept it way real …