children Archives - The Jose Vilson



Paul Tough

My latest Edutopia article explores the four words I can’t stand to hear from my students (with an analysis of the lies we tell in schools):

The discussion around “I can’t do this” can be broken down into three general levels:

  • They genuinely don’t understand the material.
  • They’ve had a long day and just don’t have the energy to work any more.
  • They have a situation at home that currently distracts them.

There are levels to “I can’t do this” that don’t get discussed, either. The current discussion around lack of effort focuses on “grit,” the cure for lack of effort — and with good reason. Paul Tough’s book How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and The Hidden Power of Character gives you a sense that he believes, with the right level of effort and conditions that help translate effort into success, any child can overcome his or her disposition.

Read more here. Share and comment if it moves you. Thanks!

Mr. Vilson

*** photo c/o ***


School Shootings, Regrets, and a Chin Up

by Jose Vilson on October 22, 2013

in Jose


Did I not fix my face this morning? Did I not prepare enough for my lesson to sufficiently engage my students? Did I talk too much, explain too little, ask too much, or push too hard? Should I have let her go to the bathroom? Should I have prevented him from going when all he wanted to do was walk around in the hallway? Did he just need some space to breathe because he’s having a hard time concentrating? Who does he not like in the class? Who does he like and is that why he’s writing little notes to her? Him? Was I too loud in my reproach? Did I listen to the student who’s been absent so long, he barely remembers his teachers’ names? Should I have sat down with him earlier? Should I have given him less warnings? More assignments? Someone more forceful about working through the today’s problems?

Should I have taken a small breather after class?

Should I have kept my patience on 10 with my after-school students? Could I have pushed them to think instead of just giggle at their erroneous suggestions? Should I have pushed her not to quit on me? On us? On life? Can I pump the breaks on a speeding locomotive moving in the opposite direction? How can I smooth out the edges when I’m trying to balance an “after-school” program when I’m still in school, in the moment, in my head? Are my day-to-day actions contributing to someone else’s angst, and if so, when do I know? What am I doing? Is there tomorrow? How can I prevent a school shooting? Better yet, how can we care more for our kids and be more conscious of what we do, if at all? How can I not live without regrets in moments like these?

All I have is tomorrow, and a hope that I can make it right. I’ll keep my chin up in the meantime. Chin up, Vilson. Chin up.


*** photo c/o ***


Our Children Are Activists, Too [BK Nation]

by Jose Vilson on September 10, 2013

in Jose

Asean Johnson

Asean Johnson

I had the pleasure of writing for activist Kevin Powell’s BK Nation. I dedicated my first piece to children and adults’ rapid dismissal of them as a false comparison to generations past. Observe:

We’re so quick to judge our youth that we lose the opportunity to reach out to them on a real level. That especially goes for my fellow educators, a few of whom pull out the grouch card at a moment’s notice. “These kids,” usually ends with a sentence that ostracizes the children who we need to reach. “They don’t understand,” translates to “I’m frustrated because they don’t have enough context yet and I don’t know how to give it to them.”

As adults, we assume responsibility for passing traditions and stories down to our kids, and if we can’t do that, we better bring them to someone who can. We need to connect the past to the things that they get. For instance, the Trayvon Martin murder and ensuing verdict galvanized youth activists all over the country. School shutdowns have prompted students to revolt against their school districts alongside teachers, parents, and other concerned adults. Students losing their parents and family members because they didn’t have “papers” stoked the fires in the bellies of youth, thus calling themselves DREAMers. The stop-and-frisk critics caught steam from civil-rights organizations and others, sure, but it was the children who confront the humiliation of s&f on a daily basis who grew the movement in a meaningful way.

To read more, click here. Like. Comment. Share. Please. Thank you!


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When It Comes To Testing, Kids Get Labeled Failures First

April 22, 2013 Jose

In my new co-blog The Collaborateurs, I wrote a little bit about testing and race. Here’s a bit: What’s sometimes missing from this side of the argument is that the effects for students is much worse than for teachers. Obviously, the teaching profession has a long way to go before we have the right working […]

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The Power of We: In The Memory of Malala Yousafzai [On Thinking Globally] #BAD12

October 15, 2012 Jose

Have you ever felt like the things you do in the classroom connect to some other, higher purpose? Sometimes. When I read about stories like Malala Yousafzai’s, it puts everything I do in the classroom in its proper perspective. For those of you who are unaware, Malala’s shown up in the news recently after Taliban […]

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7,000 Children Left Behind

August 6, 2012 Jose

A couple of weeks back, newspapers across the city reported that around 7,000 students were wrongly sent to summer school because of their ELA or math test scores. I’m almost certain a few of those include my own (former) students. For those of you who don’t know the inner workings of how these officials make […]

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