classroom procedures Archives - The Jose Vilson

classroom procedures

Wherever The DREAM May Lead Us [An Education For All]

by Jose Vilson on October 25, 2012

in Jose

DREAM girl

Recently, the conversation around the use of the word “illegal immigrant” came to a precipice when the New York Times’ public editor said there was nothing wrong with using the phrase. Writers like Jose Antonio Vargas and institutions like Univision chimed in, and rightly so. “Illegal immigrant” suggests that the immigrant themselves is illegal. The very term suggests that these men, women, and children who migrate live an existence of illegality, whereas “undocumented worker,” the better alternative, suggests that the person crossing the border actually works here but has not (yet) filled out all the forms to become a full American citizen. The former puts the burden of proof on the individual, whereas the latter highlights a systemic issue.

We still have discussions about students in this situations in black and white terms. Either they all leave or they can all stay … with a caveat. Or a few. For instance, they can’t be gang bangers and drug dealers. And they can stay if they spend thousands of dollars trying to get through college. Or enlist in an army to protect a country that won’t necessarily protect them. Many of them (or their parents) still pay taxes under different social security numbers and work in some of the spaces many others won’t, but with little nuance in our discussions, we don’t get to hear about their actual lives.

More importantly, we as teachers can’t actually tell how our students got onto our rosters … until it’s too late. By too late, I mean, we end up liking them.

Educators who work in high-English Language Learner (ELL), high-poverty environments get that we as educators have to develop a relationship with them before getting to the academics. You should do so for all classrooms, but the expectation for us to build a comfort level with our kids makes a big difference. We get to know their quirks, their pains, their scents, and their styes. We find the timbre in their voices, their sauntering and hopping through the hallways, the funny way they write their q’s, the first topic they discuss when they don’t get the task, and how loud they pop their pieces of gum.

Soon after, we get to know their deficiencies in acquiring the language, the ways they use their prior knowledge to construct the new, the funny way they mix English and words in their native language. And we laugh because it might actually make more sense if every word we wrote in one language actually meant exactly the same thing in English. If we know their native tongue, we switch up our voices to a “I know I’m not supposed to do this” whisper, but when prompted again to speak in that tongue, you decline in a “I already told you I wasn’t supposed to” sorta way. Then, we insist on speaking to their parents in whichever language they prefer in a “I told your child I wouldn’t do this anymore, but you’re cool” sorta way.

We hope the best for them. We want them to think of positive aspirations and fulfill them. We tend to them. We know their names for a year. Two or three if we’re lucky. We see them grow. We clap for them a little harder in ceremonies, because they’re ours.

We can’t tell by any of this whether the students have that allow for their “right” to be here. We can only hope that this country gives them the opportunity to let them follow their dreams, wherever they may lead.

Jose, who thinks today is the last day for voting for the #LATISM Awards voting. Thank you to those who continue to support.


An excerpt from my latest at Edutopia:

1) Rarely Use the Word “Wrong”

Students need to know that you’re not going to press a buzzer every time they make a comment or ask a question, no matter how ridiculous. Starting the year off by accepting their errors and misgivings means that you get to know them and their style of learning. Also, you get to show them the way you’ll respond to questions for the rest of the year. The word “wrong” in a classroom is similar to the phrase “You can’t do that” in improv. It’s a non-starter and often inhibits further participation. We have so many ways to say that an answer is incorrect without using the word that keep students thinking, “I might as well not.”

Read. Share. Like. Share again. Thank you for keeping me writing.

Mr. Vilson, who thinks Jose may write about writing in a few.


Give It All You Got

by Jose Vilson on September 5, 2007

Chuck MangioneMy second day started off with a huge group hug from some of my former 8th graders, and a lot of screaming up and down the block. I was stunned; I assumed these kids had to be at their schools by that time, but they had definitely waited in front of the building for me. They told me how much they missed me and how they came to visit me the afternoon before at 4pm but I wasn’t there. Their talk made me dizzy, but I tried to hurry them on to school, partly because I wanted to maintain my persona as bad-a$$ teacher. I can’t let my 6th graders know I’m really a nice guy. That’ll destroy me for the year.

My days have been alright. As of today, I’m officially a veteran, and not because of anything I’ve said or done, but because now I’ve officially taught one of my former students’ brothers or sisters. As a matter of fact, I believe a good 6 of my students have brothers or sisters who I have taught in my previous years. That lets me know a lot. Yet, I’m also establishing a different relationship with these kids; I’m a year older, smarter, faster, and stronger in the school. I hope to be a much more effective teacher, but I’ll still carry the same enthusiasm and compassion I did with those graduates of my program.

Today, I came up with the great idea of reteaching the procedures. For the class that actually got through my principles (“Be the change you want to see in the world, freedom is not free, and walk on water.”), they got a mock quiz on the 3 principles and what it meant to them. Unfortunately, it was the only class I could give that type of mock quiz to. The other classes didn’t have as fruitful a discussion on it, but it’s OK because I’m giving them another day.

All the classes still had to go over the original procedures. They lined up outside before they got into my classroom. Then, they quietly sat down, got out their notebooks, copied the “objective” and “do now,” and listened attentively for the directions. Remember that.

Then through inquiry, I got them to make up a list of the 7-step method for my classroom. We practiced it by me simply calling out the number that corresponded to what they were supposed to be doing. For instance, I said 6 and 7, and they tucked in their chairs, got their belongings, and lined up outside quietly. Then I said, 1, 2, and 3, and they walked inside, said good morning before they entered into the classroom, got into their chairs, took out their materials, and started writing the do now and objective.

Of course, I had a little fun. They couldn’t do #4 without me, so for that, I asked, “How was your summer?” Only some people raised their hands (that’s #4). I told everyone to put their hands down and we tried again. “How was your summer?” And everyone raised their hand. Now to do #5, I had to lead a discussion about their summers, and asked everyone else questions about what the other person said about their summer. When I asked them, “which procedure is that?” they pointed to #4 and 5, which are “Raise your hand,” and “Respect and listen when another person is speaking.” These are procedures I definitely wanted to focus on.

As we completed all three, I realized just how wonderful I’m doing at this juncture. As far as classroom procedures, I’m doing much better than my previous years.Because of what I’ve heard about the incoming 6th graders, I was happy to offer some semblance of structure. I also called up 9 random parents, just so I could build a reputation with the kids that they just won’t miss ;-) …

mr. v, who’s listening to Chuck Mangione’s “Give It All You Got,” off the album Fun and Games ..

p.s. – Not that I need to say this, but let’s go Yankees.