Some Nights (What We Stand For) - The Jose Vilson

Some Nights (What We Stand For)

by Jose Vilson on November 29, 2012

in Jose

fun., “Some Nights”

Some nights, I stay up cashing in my bad luck
Some nights, I call it a draw
Some nights, I wish that my lips could build a castle
Some nights, I wish they’d just fall off

But I still wake up, I still see your ghost
Oh Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for oh
What do I stand for? What do I stand for?
Most nights, I don’t know anymore…

Dear You,

Confession: Some nights, I know why I do any of this, either.

Six years ago, I wondered if teaching actually made any sense for me. The constant bombardment by people who hadn’t been in the classroom in a while complaining about the unopened boxes in the classroom, my unorganized and hastily done bulletin board, and other nitpicky nonsense that wouldn’t help anyone as an educato.

The difference between an S and a U was all a matter of whether I acquiesced to their demands for a pretty classroom, never mind that students generally wanted to come to class because I cared more about making them feel welcome than whatever a checklist somewhere deep in a manual told us.

I didn’t believe, then, that teachers should only follow their hearts and minds when they taught. Yet, the students always made me feel like I was on the right track, and I just drew on my own intuition to address what I believed about them.

But intuition isn’t enough for a teacher. That’s why I had to develop a core set of beliefs that no matter what happened to me, no matter where I went, no matter what the circumstance, I would always assure that my passion and desire for the profession remained.

I believe the children can. Learn. Do. Teach. Improve. Contribute positively. Enlighten.

I believe listening to them more often without our own agendas often enlightens our work.

I believe teaching children, not having an affinity for a particular subject, should inform our work.

I believe that teachers who genuinely care about the students enough to both push them academically and understand their obstacles make a great school.

I believe that schools should work around community solutions and agendas, not demands and complaints from on high.

I believe my daily actions have an effect on everything I perceive.

I believe in taking personal responsibility for my flaws, my imperfections, and my misgivings.

I believe in only spending energy on those who can give the right energy back.

I believe the truth will set us free.

I believe I shall fear no man.

They don’t hear me, though.

In our most trying times, when the tension becomes too thick, the changes too quick, the moments when something you’ve taught sparks an idea with a child who otherwise would have no interest or understanding in the material, when the only reason they still come to school everyday is the responsibility towards the things you do, when the class work reflects all the work you put into planning those 45 or so minutes that day hold you over.

These beliefs carry us home. They hold us together. They bind us.

What do you believe in? What do you stand for?

Jose, who tries twice as hard and is half as liked, but here they come again to jack his style

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Bill Ivey November 30, 2012 at 1:05 am

Great piece. Thank you for putting yourself out there!
So what do I believe in and stand for? I believe in the dignity of all human beings and stand for the absolute imperatives of treating everyone with respect and working toward true equity in society.
Really, that’s it. Everything else flows from those principles. Student voice in the classroom. How I work with my colleagues in support of kids. Reaching out to parents. Being the change I wish to see in the world.
It’s been a rough week, partly because that whole “trying twice as hard and half as liked” thing rings particularly true right now. I’ve had to put my head down and push forward, eventually finding a way to try and stand tall once again. I have had to refocus on the fact that I can’t control other people, including my colleagues and my students, but I can control myself and my actions. And ultimately those actions define who I am.
I remember two years ago, a student wrote me a thank you note at the end of the year. Along with the kinds of things you often hear in such notes (all the more precious for their rarity and sincerity), she thanked me for being true to myself. That she perceived that, and that it mattered so to her, has really stuck with me. If I can’t live with myself, there’s no point. And apparently, that’s true from my students’ perspective as well.

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Gretel November 30, 2012 at 9:25 am

Yes. Thank you for this. I’ve been having some of those nights lately.

I’ve been having trouble knowing not what I stand for, but when to stand and when to work around. And I reached a point where I had to stand last night for students and for their potential and for their right to educational opportunity. And I feel better for having stood.

Sometimes, my Midwestern need for politeness gets in the way. Thanks for the reminder that it is time to write down a creed. A few things that are worth starting an argument if I have to.

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Jose December 2, 2012 at 6:05 pm

We need to have these in mind, too. Some nights, the tossing and turning become simply unbearable. But this is our charge: to push onward, no matter what.

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Abbie Middleton December 1, 2012 at 3:44 pm

I really enjoyed this post. It was honest, and showed that teachers are people with fears and failures, too. Many times, parents and those outside of the classroom do not see this and do not understand. I believe that before you can become a teacher, you have to know who you are, and what you believe. As a future educator, I appreciate your honesty and challenge to think about what I believe in.

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Jose December 2, 2012 at 6:05 pm

Abbie, thank you for dropping by. Please let me know how your future educational endeavors go. Seriously.

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Ms. H. December 3, 2012 at 8:30 pm

Hi!

As a first year teacher who is struggling to keep her head over water during a turbulent QR and year, your post really resonates with me. I teach all ELLs and I’ve been told that I have only 4 months to cram 300 years of US History content so that they can take and pass the US Regents in January. My students and I recently had a heart-to-heart because they felt that in my classroom, I wasn’t taking their ideas into consideration and that they felt overwhelmed with taking/passing the Regents in two months.

As educators, we do need to remind ourselves what we stand for. That it’s children first (Not Bloomberg’s ideas of “Children First, Inc.”). That the Test comes second (or third, or . . .). Thanks to your post, I am reminded that I am not alone and that if it weren’t for my resilient, inspiring 11th graders, I would not still be teaching with my heart forward and back to the board despite all the aggravation and stress.

I believe in building civic leadership. I believe my immigrant students are the future of this country and deserve a fighting chance. I believe in teaching for social justice. I stand for a culturally-relevant and culturally-sensitive teaching of history. I stand by my students, despite how others have told me that they “cannot learn” and “do not deserve to be apart of America.”

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