Spoiled Cliches and Shallow Metaphors

11 Comments

Nintendo Sneakers

Here’s a metaphor I heard during our fabulous faculty professional development:

No matter the type of shoe, they all get laced the same way.

And it was used in the context of our children’s learning. I laughed a little after I woke up from my coma. It didn’t come from our principal, so thank goodness for that. If I understand what the presenter’s trying to convey by this, not only is this completely contradictory to the ideas of differentiation that we’ve been inundated with for the last couple of years, it’s also another hint as to how the Bloomklein administration perceives many of our children. Let’s extend the metaphor a bit.

Not all shoes are the same. Some are made for running, high jumping, basketball, football, soccer, walking around, chillin’ on a Saturday, teaching, doing some dirty work, working out, and just lookin’ fly. And since we’re on the subject, there are 33 different ways of lacing up shoes, along with a variety of laces to choose from, depending on style, appropriateness, and affordability. Already, we have a few things to take into consideration. Then, even if we laced them up all the same way, we’re not even sure if the knot will stay on long enough for the person wearing the shoe. Some need a double knot while others need those knot clips. Some others need to have their lace tips mended, others still need to be washed after a long week, and then there’s that section of shoes that don’t even have laces and just need to be slipped on, though they’re the minority (no pun intended whatsoever).

Come to think of it, teachers aren’t just the shoe lacers. We’re often part of the long line of shoe makers, adjusters, and inspectors these shoes go through. Even if Bloomklein would prefer to have 90% of our shoe company make black boots (perfect for manual labor), we as teachers have to do our best that we understand the diversity in the brand of shoes we make. Our customers depend highly on our product, and only until we learn how to do our best when we run it through our inspections will we make a good shoe.

Then again, I wouldn’t necessarily call my students a shoe per se, since they aren’t to be worn. Then again, I don’t go to some educational administration school where they give me talking points to push onto my teachers in a professional development. Quotes from random people don’t impress me; action does. When we use quotes, we should invoke the spirit of the quote, and substantiate them with our actions. Otherwise, they’re just hollow words.

I’m a simple teacher, and my business is strictly in the classroom, so maybe I’m wrong. Then again, since I’m on my feet all day anyways, I might know a few things about what’s on my size 13s …

jose, who wants to give a shout-out to one of the best photographers on Earth as far as I’m concerned, and a group of women doing some sassy things

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.

Comments 11

  1. Frumteacher

    LOVE the shoelace site!
    But seriously, you are obviously totally right with your observation. When I read your shoe post, it made me think. In the past, people would buy shoes because they wanted a strong quality product. It required a big investment, but people were willing to make it because that’s what it took to get a beautiful, strong shoe that would last long. Nowadays, people buy cheap Chinese sneakers and plastic ballerinas and toss them after a season (or less). Unfortunately, all the ‘reforms’ and politicians with ‘revolutionary ideas’ that have plagued our educational system over the past years (and maybe even decades) tend to see our students as cheap plastic flipflops in stead of as quality boots that require a true investment on behalf of the school system. Sad.

  2. e

    thanks for the plug. :)

    i started reading this the other night when we were talking about how teacher bloggers stick together because you’re all you got. hmm.

    students aren’t shoes and even if they were, they should never be laced the same exact way. whomp.

  3. John Holland

    A little extension.

    At the pre-k level I never tie shoes if I can help it. I get the kids to help each other tie their shoes. If one girl has to tie everybody’s shoes then very quickly she has taught other kids. It is a lesson in community.
    Besides they learn better from each other anyway.

    hmmm

  4. Tracy

    Nice one Jose….
    Personally, I’m in the minority. Give me a slip on or a flip-flop over sneakers any day. Lace-ups are just a royal pain in the butt.

    On the topic of sneakers…
    …recently went to see Sneaker Pimps when the show swung through Montreal a few weeks ago. Unfortunately Black Sheep were held at the border (the story of a Montreal hip-hop show…but The Narcisyst – http://www.myspace.com/euphrates – bailed the show out with a great set at the last minute) but there were some pretty fancy sneaks to take a peak at, showing that not only are there many ways to lace them, but sneakers ARE works of art.
    http://www.sneakerpimps.net/

  5. Post
    Author
    Jose

    NYCEd, exactly what I was getting at.

    Frumteacher, something to think about: I remember when I used to buy sneakers that would last a good 2-3 years. Now since they’re made of cheaper material, they waste down much easier, even doing the same tasks. Either the streets are more acid-laden or it’s the corps. I’d say it’s the former. Good observation.

    e, and what’s more, imagine if you walked into a shoe store and you had so many options that you ended up not choosing any at all? that’s pretty much how schools roll nowadays.

    Tracy, I’m with that. I like shoes without laces when I’m in a huge hurry, but then again, it makes me look at least 3 times my senior. And as for Sneaker Pimps, they’ve definitely made their inroads through the hood already. I’m up on it, and they’re dope.

  6. Jen

    I was visiting a school to move my kindergartener to for next year (urban district, in the 12 years I’ve had a kid in the system, it’s become more and more rigid, more and more constrained, the best teachers with the most ideas and energy are retiring). This new school has this great um, thing that they do. I don’t want to write it here or ever speak of it in front of the administration. Not because it’s weird, crazy, out of bounds or anything remotely like that.

    No, the reason I don’t want anyone else to know about this cool thing they’ve got going is that then the district will step in and MANDATE that every elementary school has to do it. And do it just like this school. And teachers and administrators at other schools will hate it and it wouldn’t work for them, and THEN the district would BAN the practice.

    Never once does it cross their mind to encourage each school to use its resources (teachers, parents students) to come up with creative, unique ideas that work in that school. Noooooo, better that we all follow one stooopid idea like this laces thing.

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