Reminding Me of Self - The Jose Vilson

Reminding Me of Self

by Jose Vilson on December 20, 2007

First Year Teacher ChartAt this point, everyone’s frustrated. The students have been on a huge sugar rush for the last 3 weeks, sucking on Jolly Ranchers of all different flavors and drinking all types of carbonated drinks before, during, and after class, thus making them more hyper and off-the-wall than usual. Teachers have lost much of the optimism they had initially from the beginning of the year in the face of the worst behaviors from the children, plus they’ve become a little more concentrated on classroom discipline than the lessons themselves. Even the best of the administrators soon crumble under the immense pressure and long hours they work, thus making their flaws a little more conspicuous.

It’s times like these that I turn back to that first-year teachers’ attitude we were given to remind us that things eventually do get better for us. There’s little reason to think that it won’t. Unfortunately, first year teachers become disillusioned by the aforementioned factors, and even older teachers go through issues related to disillusionment, but moreso about the administrators above them.

In turn, this is when we should remember why we became teachers to begin with. We’ll get a nice long break to be with our families and remember who we are, filling our stomachs to the brim and maybe slipping in a little surprise at the bottom of whatever we’re sipping while we’re unwrapping presents or delivering them for that matter.

In my position right now, I always get to reflect on my own teaching, and how my own actions affect the classroom and therefore what I can do to make the best of the situations I’m given. However, now more than ever, when I’ve found myself in the most awkward position I’ve ever been in 2 years or so, when I have so many people relying on me (children and fellow teachers alike), when the second half of school is decidedly quicker than the first, I need to find the inner strength to become the rock star I know I can be. (I’ve played well enough to earn me a drum solo, but I’d like to be remembered as one of the greatest drummers that any live audience has ever heard, btw …)

All this to say that maybe more reflection and self-awareness might ease the pain and anguish I see in the edusphere (virtual or otherwise). Maybe it’s time we use the one vehicle we have for expressing ourselves to really express ourselves. While the walls that be close in on us, we should use whatever free space we have left to do what we need to. Maybe we can spend personal time with the children tomorrow instead of just force-feeding a lesson before the break. Maybe we can have an honest conversation with a fellow teacher or administrator who’ll lend us his or her ear. Maybe we can just write down and detox …

Maybe. Or definitely. Whichever’s more pertinent to you, whoever you are at that moment …

jose, who in a state of eternal reflection …

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

John Holland December 20, 2007 at 11:22 pm

Great post on the importance of reconnecting to who you are outside of the classroom and then bringing that person back to school with you in the new year. I think one great part of this time of year is that you can see which new teachers in an urban school are actually going to make it and which will be sending out resumes in March. Those who will survive may have lost the glassy eyed optimism of the rookie but they have begun to shine the steelily optimistic gaze of someone who will go the distance.

And, about the candy and sodas I think kids get that hook in them at halloween and don’t let it go until after winter break. Then they pick it up again for valentines and definitely for easter. The folks who figured out how to tie candy into 5 out of 7 major holidays where some seriously smart capitalists. Of course sugar has been a well spring for rich to get richer for a long time.
Best wishes,
John H.
NBCT/Head Start/TLN

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Hugh O'Donnell aka Repairman December 21, 2007 at 2:32 am

Reflection is good. So is “…moderation…”

Not to jack your post, but I wanted to tell you right here that I very much enjoyed your contribution to “Splash…” on a number of levels, and I’m reading the poetry like I did years ago, and enJOYing it. That improvement of the quality of my life is your present to me this holiday season. I hope mine comes to you, in kind, somewhere along this life’s timeline!

I got the book a couple of days ago, and didn’t even want to open it until I could steal a little block of time to read your stuff and explore it without interruption. Just did that, and I recommend the experience to other readers. :)

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Mes Deux Cents December 21, 2007 at 11:47 am

Jose,

Hang in there! I have so much admiration for teachers. What an impossible job it seems. But even when you think the kids are just sitting there rushing on suger, one of them is GETTING IT.

Thanks

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redkudu December 21, 2007 at 8:12 pm

Ah, yes. Thank you for this.

Beautifully worded and resounding.

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Tom Brandt December 22, 2007 at 12:01 am

Today I become one of the followers of your blog. In the past week I have created a special section for education related blogs. But I can see that yours is much more than that.

I was touched by this post and can understand the frustrations you feel. As many have said before me, and I say sincerely, teaching is a difficult and important job, and all teachers deserve the highest respect from all of us outside that profession. And when a teacher looses his or her focus for whatever reason the quality of teaching suffers.

Yes, take the time to reflect. Do what you need to do to regenerate. And come back in a few days time refocused for the task ahead, teacher or administrator, that of leading children into learning.

In the next couple weeks I will read through many of your past posts (126 in all!). And I truly look forward to that task.

Enjoy the Season of Peace.

Tom Brandt

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Jose December 22, 2007 at 10:41 am

@ John, thanks for the compliment. Sugar: the legal cane.

@ Hugh: thanks for the support. Honestly, I’m very glad you supported the book since it was an anthology. Poetry’s been powerful for me, too.

@ MDC: Nice to see you around these parts. Feels like I see you everywhere but my blog. Welcome :-).

@ redkudu: You’re welcome. It’s necessary for teachers like us to continue pushing ourselves personally.

@ tom: Reading all 126 posts would be cool, but I warn you that I don’t just write about education as you might have found out already. Let me know how the endeavor goes.

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Frumteacher December 22, 2007 at 2:47 pm

I love the image that goes with this post.

It’s true that my attitude changes throughout the year. But it’s also a one-day-at-a-time-thing. One day can be really disastrous, while the next restores all my hope in mankind (and my students, for that matter). I guess there’s always a little flame of idealism and hope, flickering inside me. Sometimes strong, sometimes faint, but never totally extinguished by the horors that occur in my classroom.

The edusphere has helped me to get in touch with my little flame, and with those of other teachers. I think even the venting about bad lesson days helps letting the flame grow bigger. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have been the same teacher (and person) without learning from all my edublogger-friends!

Jose, enjoy the holiday season and winter break quality time!

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bygpowis December 22, 2007 at 8:25 pm

i just want to remind ye teachers what you are fighting for. i carved out a sense of self in school because of you folks. when the lines dips in the graph, remember what i say: teachers were my parents growing up. school was my sanctuary. i’m remembering those days with images and words here. come by to get rejuvenated.

Black Boy Middle School, Parts 1-3
http://youtube.com/watch?v=8gVI07rDY7A
http://youtube.com/watch?v=3xaBZj8K7Oc&feature=related
http://youtube.com/watch?v=wdgEzZ2Ebc4&feature=related

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Ehav Ever December 22, 2007 at 10:23 pm

Interesting post. I have always wondered about steps that different teachers take to keep going. Are there support groups for teachers to do the kinds of things you talk about?

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NYC Educator December 23, 2007 at 1:20 pm

Someone just reminded me that December is one of those times more likely to induce stress for teachers, no matter how long they’ve been at it. It isn’t just the sugar (though it’s more plentiful this time of year) but the anticipation of a week and a half of freedom. Freedom from you, freedom from me, and freedom from all the other crazy teachers who torture kids year in and year out.

Too late for this, but it’s a great week for making phone calls home. I realize you’re not as evil or sinister as I am, but that may come with age.

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John Holland December 23, 2007 at 3:37 pm

Hey Jose,
Wanted to you to see this blog. Seven first year teachers in Oakland. I found it at http://roomd2.blogspot.com/

http://www.ibabuzz.com/myfirstyear/

Best wishes in a new year.

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Jose December 23, 2007 at 6:21 pm

@ Frum: I’m in agreement. That’s why my blogroll is so damn long. I need as much inspiration as possible.

@ bygpowis: thanks for the vids. I’ll check them soon.

@ Ehav: Support groups? Yeah, and you’re looking at one of them (HA!) No seriously, the only support groups we have are our teacher meetings, the teachers’ lounge, and these blogs. There’s nothing that’s called a “support group for teachers.” I hope that answers your question.

@NYC: Yes, that is sinister, but it’s OK. You know our people believe in 3 Kings’ Day presents, too, so they’ll have something on their doorstep for then too, and it won’t be gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

@ John: I just checked it out and commented. Thanks. They don’t write as much as we both might like to see, but they’re cool nonetheless.

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Alisha December 23, 2007 at 8:19 pm

Jose, this was a wonderfully refreshing post – as many of your posts usually are – I, too, intend to use this time to self-reflect and remember why I went into administration in the first place – to reconnect with those lofty goals I set and to rejuvenate!

Thanks again!

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Jonathan December 25, 2007 at 7:50 pm

With a few more bumps and twists you really could graph the first 3-5 years this same way – somewhat periodic, but a little more ‘up’ overall.

Of course you’ve completely missed the curve for the people who never make it, but that’s not really the idea…

In other (minor and annoying) news, I’ve tagged you for a meme that I can’t believe you haven’t been tagged for yet.

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Tamara Eden December 28, 2007 at 2:31 pm

HI there,

I just realized there was a comment from you but Wordpress put it in spam. Glad I caught it. Thank you for visiting my blog and I will surely be coming back and adding you to my bloglines. My blogroll is a little out of date but soon we’ll fix that too.

By the way, I LOVE THE LES! Being Jewish and all there’s that special connection. If I taught there, I’d so bring every single student to the LES Tenement museum! Lucky you!

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Jose December 28, 2007 at 4:02 pm

Alisha, it’s necessary for all of us.

Jonathan, thanks for the tag. I already got you.

Tamara, I don’t teach in the Lower East Side, but I was born and raised there. But nonetheless, I am fortunate in some respects and am proud to be a product of this environment for better or worse.

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