The Power of Books

So That’s Where The Genius Goes!

Jose Vilson Jose 1 Comment

The Power of Books

The Power of Books

I woke up this morning completely unready to teach. I’m talking about, I didn’t have a cup of Café Bustelo / I didn’t have my clothes ready / I forgot what planet I was on unready. I tried to get my mind straight about what I’d teach this week and I came up with the semi-brilliant idea of reviewing rates seeing as how we’ll need them for understanding linear equations. Good improv, Mr. V. Mr. V decides to sleep on that thought right on the A-train, taking his usual siesta a few hours too early but always right on time. I got my Whiteboard ready, laptop ready, Do Now / Problem of the Day typed up, and my collar straightened. It’s go time.

We’re in the flow of class, and I’m showing my kids some really cool functions on Excel that demonstrates the power of an equation, and they’re digging it. Again, all smooth. I do my usual walk-around, be quiet now before I call your house, let me pick up progress reports, move to that seat over there, alright you’re done, routine.

Something was off today.

And I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

So I sat down next to my front table of students, all of whom have confidence issues with math. Sarcastic teacher that I am, I test them to make sure that, when they give me a right answer, they can explain why before I give them the big “NOOOO!!!! What are you DOING?!” (The confident ones always just laugh at me.) As I’m sitting there, we’re struggling through a question that clearly states the rule as,

“It is a fact that a cup of sugar is about half a pound of sugar.”

Fair enough. So you’d think when it comes to the table, my “advanced” class would whiz right through this. Not so. My front table struggled with just telling me what half of 1 was. And after that, one of the girls couldn’t even make her y-axis right. Her increments went like this:

0, 1/2, 1, 1/2, 2, 1/2, …

Her dots went in a zigzag directly up. Hurt my soul. After I let the girls at the table converse about this situation, I just shake my head and say,

“This is my table of airheads!”

Of course, they giggle, but one of them turns to me and says,

“HEY!! I’m not an airhead! My brain has tons of books in it … I just haven’t read them yet.”

It’s officially the first time I let myself laugh in class. Quote of the year.

Jose, who wonders where all those books in my brain went …

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.

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