education Archives - The Jose Vilson

education

my classroom

This was my actual classroom eight years ago, which is the same I have now.

Meet my once and future classroom.

It once had a exposed wooden door, working lights, nine unmarked boxes, beige lockers, and a second year teacher scared for his career. I know this because I was him eight years ago. Throughout the year, the desks rumbled and shuffled about the class, sometimes in groups, in pairs, or in single row and file while students and their teacher prepared for tests of all kinds. The teacher whispered, yelled, almost laughed, and taught through seasons of administrative temperament more intemperate than the seasons. His entire existence rested upon the piles of work on his desk, which also served as perfect coverage for the times he had to emote. He made it through that year, stronger for the fact that he didn’t send his resignation papers in the June of that academic year.

That classroom, like the teacher, started gathering more students, more chairs, and more responsibilities. It served as headquarters for after-school and summer programs on a regular basis. It served as an ELA and social studies room, even though math books anchored the leftover texts. The custodians had painted the lockers blue, and the influx of human traffic scuffed and scratched the lockers, revealing some dull-brown streaks. A room that once only had student desks and a huge meeting desk turned book holder accumulated bookshelves of different use, and to make up for that, the lights closest to the white board dimmed, pushing all the attention to the bookshelves.

Walking into it yesterday, I noticed the waxed floor, the newer desks already set in groups, and all the stuff I moved from my upstairs office to my new classroom piked up on top of the monster table in the back. The bookshelves had blocked the sun from piercing my eyes, so maybe I should be grateful. As I started to dust off shelves, removing books that served as clutter to my mission for the upcoming school year, I smiled at the idea that I’d have one more chance to get better at this thing I call my calling, my career, and my professional life.

I also noticed, close to the whiteboard, an uncovered hole in the wall. The second year teacher had reprimanded a student for accidentally kicking a hole in the wall, throwing her out of the year’s Christmas pizza party as punishment for it. Over the years, teachers had deftly put bookshelves and chart paper over it, but never seemed to address that hole. I peeked at the whole and noticed someone had tried to patch the drywall up, filling it with plaster and coloring it the same green as the wall.

The hole looks better, but it’s still there, and that’s OK. Just making it to the point where I noticed the hole satisfies the second year teacher in me.

Jose

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Ferguson-Michael-Brown-690

This is often the way education conversations go:

Higher-Up: Hey, so what do people want to talk about?
Teacher 1: Can we talk about teacher evaluation?
Higher-Up: Sure, what’s on your mind?
Teacher 1: Well, here it goes. [long diatribe about how great / terrible Danielson is]
Higher-Up: Well, OK. Anyone else?
Teacher 2 (of color): Can we talk about race now?
Higher-Up: Sounds complicated. We need a more appropriate forum for th …
Teacher 2: But this is urgent. We’re having serious issues going on and so many of our kids are of …
Higher-Up: OK, OK, OK. We’ll get to it in a more appropriate forum. Anyone else?

Teacher 3: Let’s talk about Common Core.
Higher-Up: What about it?
Teacher 3: My thinking is [even longer diatribe about Gates' involvement and how great / terrible standards are for kids]
Higher-Up: I hear you. That’s relevant. Anyone else?
Teacher 2: Can we talk about race now? (with a little more emphasis)
Higher-Up: I still don’t think we’re ready. We’re really dealing with this issue and I’d rather we be better informed and nuanced about race before dealing with it.
Teacher 2: But half the people here don’t actually know what the CCSS is, the layers, and why they’re either for or against any of it and …
Higher-Up: SO everyone should have an opinion on the CCSS, so I allowed it.
Teacher 2: UGH!

(skip to the last teacher on the list …)

Higher-Up: Anyone else?
Teacher 100: I want to talk about the deleterious effects of poverty …
Teacher 2: OK, so are we going to talk about race here?
Higher-Up: Now, I said we needed the right forum …
Teacher 2, agitated: NOOOO! YOU WAIT FOR THE RIGHT FORUM! ALL Y’ALL HERE TALKIN’ BOUT ALL YOUR SINGLE LITTLE ISSUE BUT DON’T WANT TO FACE UP TO THE REALITY THAT OUR KIDS LOOK A LOT DIFFERENT THAN OUR STAFF, THEY DON’T WANT YOUR STINKING MIDDLE CLASS / UPPER CLASS VALUES, AND WANT TO KNOW WHY PEOPLE OF COLOR JUST LIKE THE ONES THEY SEE IN THE MIRROR ARE GETTING SHOT WITH NO CAUSE BY THE PEOPLE WHO ARE SUPPOSED TO PROTECT THEM!
Higher-Up: Now, now, let’s stay professi …
Teacher 2: YOU CAN STICK YOUR PROFESSIONALISM UP YOUR …

And scene …

So, not that this has happened before, but I wonder, too frequently, why people always want to wait, wait, wait on discussing issues of race, even ones as point-blank (pardon the pun) as this Michael Brown tragedy. Whether on or offline, people always want to find the “right forum” for this conversation. I get that, with some discussions, we need to have certain protocol so people feel comfortable opening up about their experiences and, in many cases, unpacking their privilege. But then it always feels like people put off certain conversations until people forget them.

All the while, I must openly question how folks can go so hard when it comes to Common Core State Standards and all the reforms that come with it, and not dedicate a few minutes of their time to learn about, if not ask those who know something about, some of the tragedies affecting our kids, both locally and nationally. I refuse to stand in solidarity with those who won’t do so with me.

Because the death of children of color at the hands of our executive branch takes more precedence than any set of standards.

I won’t wait.

Jose

photo c/o

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slidingplaneseats-dd

I called someone a racist this past weekend. And a sexist for good measure.

I don’t have much authoritative experience with the latter as I do the former, and I don’t go throwing around such a title lightly.

I won’t go into the incident, but it was a long string of events that triggered me using the word, and, soon thereafter, people started opening up about some of the latent racist comments said person made. It was revelatory in that I had this hunch for a long time, but, because he’s respected in some of our common circles, I decided to let everything play out, letting karma mete out justice accordingly.

That moment never came, so I handled it myself.

Time and again, I’m faced with having to bring up conversations that made people’s collars tight around their necks. It’s not the happy-go-ISTE convo, the hipster affectations, the “standardized testing” is the devil conversation, or the “new progressives don’t believe in unions” nonsense. It’s the conversation around why we we’re still in the mentality of “saving the children.”

Every time we simultaneously say that we “speak for our children of color” but neither give voice to those children or don’t respect the very adults of color who were in the same seats, we set the foundation for angst, anger, and rage. The thing about discussions about race, sex, and class is that, if you’re the only person of the group most marginalized by the -ism, you almost feel like it’s your job to speak up UNTIL someone else gets the gumption to do so.

Especially in a field like education, where people want to believe everything is either hunky dory or everyone is working against them, people rarely speak up in a way that matters. When someone says something racist, they wait for me or one of my friends to handle it. When someone sexist comes up, they always wait for an out-and-out feminist to address it (and then the rest of us loud ones).

With the plethora of resources available to us (see here and here for some of mine), it’s wild that many folks still rather sit on the sidelines while the same folks have to bring up these harsh topics. Some will be brave, and, even just a nod or a “thank you” goes a long way in making the marginalized supported.

Sitting there, hoping for the vocal person of color to handle it just won’t do any more. Don’t wait to speak up with the marginalized, the ism’ed. Because, if you do, then you can’t complain how, after tireless battles and wearisome incidents, the tone isn’t to your liking.

Our voices got raspy, our souls depleted from the beating back of zombie stereotypes and slurs. If your voice has no intention of alleviating the voice, tone isn’t your angle for entry. You never spoke. Please. Have this whole row of seats.

Jose

photo c/o

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Just My Imagination Running Away With Me (A Post-CCSS World)

June 8, 2014 Jose
The Temptations

I‘ve seen this article in my e-mails and feeds no less than ten times this morning. Much of this is old news for me since, if you’ve put all the pieces together for the last four years, it’s fairly obvious just how invested Bill Gates has been in getting Common Core State Standards moved across […]

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Michelle Obama and Why Teachers Need To Embrace Critique

June 3, 2014 Jose
US First Lady Michelle Obama

Every time someone says something, anything, about teachers, without fail, a naysayer always nags how it’s a conspiracy against teachers as a whole. For instance, a recent commercial about the National Baseball Hall of Fame Museum started with a father asking his boy, “You like your teachers this year?” to which the boy replied, “Sure.” […]

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Hope Makes Teaching More Than A Job

May 25, 2014 Mr. Vilson
i-love-lucy-chocolate-factory-scene-belt

Goodness, that last EduShyster’s interview was epic. There’s a whole piece that we didn’t even get to share with you because, well, it would hurt some people’s favorite bloggers / heroes / activists’ feelings. Really, the biggest difference between Audrey Watters’ awesome Twitter interview pre-This Is Not A Test and EduShyster’s recent, also awesome interview […]

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Racism Without Racists: The School Re-segregation Edition

April 17, 2014 Jose
Thurgood Marshall

Today, ProPublica released a special report on their website dedicated to the re-segregation of America’s public schools. With the 60th anniversary of the Brown vs. Board of Education decision on May 17th approaching, ProPublica has focused this special section on Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where three separate and equally devastating stories will be told as case studies […]

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