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Step Away From The Children

by Jose Vilson on May 3, 2012

in Mr. Vilson

Nope. I’m not going to let you get away with it.

You think you’re slick with your off-kilter jargon and smooth delivery, but I see right through you.

Before I continue, I need you to step away from the children.

You’re passionate about your subject area, but not about the kids you’re teaching. You say you love teaching, but never actually want to talk to the kids before or after class. Actually, you don’t actually want to talk to the kids, but at them. You refuse to understand where they’re coming from and defer to good old days that never actually happened in times that weren’t as gilded (trust me). You think the kids are cute, but hate the adults they become, no matter what they become.

You read this blog thinking I’m some exception, but don’t want to see our kids as exceptional in their own way.

You keep telling people that not every child is going to college, but are fully OK with children from your family or background getting every opportunity handed to them to succeed as college grads. You think my skin is the only reason why kids might gravitate towards me, yet you refuse to ask what else I’m doing. You look at custodians like serfs and vagabonds instead of people just like you who have kids to feed. You think it’s OK that the demographics in our central offices are the cultural inverse of the populations of children we have in schools.

You think I should come into discussions on race and class with a Coke and a smile.

You question every thought your colleagues have because of their appearances without wondering how they got there. You never realize why you don’t have the buy-in from the students, so you make your lesson plans and maps difficult enough for administrators to admire you. You don’t get why I get frustrated with kids who don’t even make an attempt at the math, and why I still keep kids who are failing their classes under my wing. You think what’s happening in schools right now is just fine, but would never accept that for yourself … or your children.

Your discriminating tastes make you and everyone else around you bitter.

Do us a favor; step away from the kids. And watch the door behind you, because I’m swinging it hard.

Mr. Vilson, who tries to be fair …

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The American Dream, Awoken Abruptly

by Jose Vilson on October 24, 2011

in Jose

Pardon the disruption of the heady talk, but I’d rather preface my optimism for our children’s future for a realism I’ve understood since first born. We ought to look more clearly at what students in disadvantaged areas believe about our silly nationalistic fascinations. There’s a set of people in an older generation that believes in instilling names like “American Dream” and “work ethic” in the minds of youth whose country rarely works in their favor (relatively speaking). Imagine me asking one of my students being asked about the American Dream. They’d probably respond with some packaged quotes like doing well in school and staying out of trouble. Rarely will their passions and quandaries about the world stretch farther than the square plots we prepare their minds for.

By the time they reach me, many become adept at straddling the lines of what will get them past the 8th grade, when they will either mature into some sense of academic awareness or slowly digress into complacency. But don’t mistake any of these two divergent paths for believing in a pseudo-meritocracy. If anything, there’s a subconscious understanding that every person has to find a way to hustle. Poor children already see via books, magazines, and TV the inequalities they’re up against. Thus, they don’t always feel like pledging allegiance, respecting troops, or remembering tragedies that preceded their memory span because they know how America regards them. They’re not interested in stock markets and elevator speeches about the economy because they know where they stand on that pay scale.

They’re not too interested in spending 12 years of their lives getting told they don’t know anything when outside of the brick and mortar is lots more fun and lots less pressurized.

I’m not advocating for people to completely disown what this country stands for, or at least the visage of what we believe it might stand for. Many consider themselves lucky compared to the conditions they witnessed before. I’m simply advocating for understanding, and why, for anyone who’s keenly observing, the nationalism instilled in us gets broken rather quickly these days much the way homes, wallets, and hearts do. And it hurts because in my position, I don’t intuitively tell my students that much of what they know is complete bullshit and they ought to revisit it, at least directly. I do believe hard work speaks volumes, and there are plenty of us (including myself) who went through the education process and have done fairly well for ourselves.

I just can’t sit back anymore and ask my fellow teacher, “Um … poverty matters, doesn’t it?”

Mr. Vilson, who reflects like no other …

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