Mr. Vilson

Salute Me, Sir

Jose 5 Comments

Mr. Vilson

Mr. Vilson

Today, I found myself in the middle of a pop quiz, and it wasn’t even in my class. As the math coach, I expect certain things to come with the territory. I expected a bit of resistance, and having to deal with attitudes from adults similar to those of the students who some reject. I expected people making snide comments, and negativity thrown in my direction, even when unwarranted. I also expected to see some of the inefficient and frustrating processes that go behind the making of schools in NYC and across the nation. I expected people still acting like I don’t teach a class (I do, on top of everything else I’m doing) or, if I did, I’d take the “best” class, when in fact, I took my English Language Learners, the ones everyone remembers being difficult, and hoping to do my best and make them into positive, responsible teenagers going into high school. I even expected for people to be nice to me and then say things behind my back.

Yet, I didn’t expect my response to it.

My Aquarian tendencies lead me to start mistrusting these individuals, and sometimes making a situation uglier than it needs to be. I could have just said a few nasty things here and there at the person who told me the news, and playing a clandestine game of Telephone. Classless? Definitely. In my younger years, I would have been prone to that.

I’m a little older now.

Today, a teacher told me that another teacher (a doubter I presume) wanted to observe me. At first, I was taken aback, because I was making my rounds through my informal observations, and the lead teacher was a bit surprised, too. Then, in front of her class, I laughed, and I said, “I’ll tell him myself.” During my observation, I mused on ways to approach this, and my thoughts became more sinister as they went along. If he wants to observe, then why not the whole math department? I’d have a “Visit Vilson” week, where anyone not teaching a class during my teaching periods could come observe.

It became a really funny spiral of calamities from there, ranging from having a test or quiz on the day he’s scheduled to intentionally sabotaging the lesson and my day so he’d run around screaming how terrible a teacher I was and how much he deserved the position I have. Both were feasible, though the latter was hilarious in my maniacal daze, but I found it unfair to the process. So what if he came into my classroom and saw what I did? It’s not like he’s never seen that before. Actually, it might improve my instruction or give me a dimension I never thought about as far as my own instruction, particularly my more needy students. If anything, I probably see more gaps in my own teaching than others may.

I went right to the teacher’s room and said, “Hey, I heard you wanted to observe me. I’ll give you the period and you can come right in.” He looked kinda shocked, but just nodded and sat there. I don’t like going around the back of people to get what I want anymore, and that’s transformed a lot of the communication I’ve had. I plan to re-prove myself and get my respect or “die trying.” As I’ve said before, the question as to whether I’m a better teacher than anyone else is up for debate, but I consider myself a good leader, and that’s the difference.

That may be also why I got hired as the math coach: I can see those gaps in the school that I’d be willing to fill. For example, I found a student from Yemen who knew 3 words in English, “I don’t know.” He’s got all fluent English speakers, and now I’ve taken him under my wing. Best believe he learned how to salute me now. It’s like he’s learned what others should have picked up a long time ago.

Mr. Vilson, who needs to get his mind 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 VilsonSalute Me, Sir

Comments 5

  1. kat

    “it might improve my instruction or give me a dimension I never thought about as far as my own instruction, particularly my more needy students. If anything, I probably see more gaps in my own teaching than others may. As I’ve said before, the question as to whether I’m a better teacher than anyone else is up for debate, but I consider myself a good leader, and that’s the difference.- wow ! you were mature, smart, and cool about the request. its really easy to look at you and be proud~ this u know.

  2. Post
    Author
    Jose

    Thank you both for your comments. I honestly like the idea of speaking up because that’s just a clearer way of approaching the hostility and jade that pervades our profession. I’m trying my best to be more understanding, and trying to build trust quickly, however difficult it may be.

  3. Villager

    I appreciate you for a number of reasons Jose, not the least of which is the fact that you are one of the few male teachers of color in our public schools. I look forward to following your teacher-related trials, tribulations and successes over the remainder of this school year.

    I salute you sir!
    Villager

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