environment Archives - The Jose Vilson


Senator Bernie Sanders

On Friday, I came back from another CoCoLoco meeting in which someone suggested I become an administrator (for the umpteenth time) because I was asked to be a table leader even though I had no idea I was leading the table until my name was put at the top of a name chart at an 8th grade table … and proceeded to lead it well. Fair enough, but there’s no way I can be an administrator, even if I know how to get people re-focused on a task and actually come appropriately dressed for a professional development day.

After the meeting, I came home to the news that Senator Bernie Sanders, the Independent socialist from Vermont, was in his 5th hour of speaking to a mostly empty chamber about the corrupt calamity that is Barack Obama and the GOP leaders’ tax plan “compromise,” which includes the extension of unemployment benefits but also includes the extension of the previous president’s affluent-appeasing tax cuts. I watched the grand spectacle of him reading letter after letter about the tax compromise, him wondering out loud how this should help our least fortunate Americans, him detailing the extreme economic inequalities, him dissecting case after case of families barely able to put food on their tables and leave lights on but having to pay more in taxes percentage-wise than the multi-millionaires and billionaires whose only worry includes whether they’ll be wearing a blue tie or a black tie to work the next day.

It’s through that lens that I view how a school runs. Irrespective of what people might think about the brick-and-mortar buildings that speckle any town’s landscape, everyone in the building matters, from the custodian who cleans up the leaves in front of the building in the morning to the principal whose vision and work keeps the school in line. Often, the talk in district offices (that trickles into school offices) is that these little things don’t matter. They focus far too much on the decor of instruction (I mean, does it look like kids are learning?) and the appearance of rigor and calm in a school instead of the relationships between students, teachers, parents, and everyone else involved that make a school efficiently.

For example, if I ever became an administrator, I couldn’t ever see myself as a closed-door principal. I’d welcome having parents and students, and frankly, they’d know my name by first week of school, if not before they even stepped into the building. I’d probably ask teachers to be mindful of hallways and protocol for sending kids to the dean’s office. I’d probably have my finger dipped in every critical situation within the school, from the parent getting loud with teachers to the teacher still reading the newspaper or their phone in the middle of class. I’d probably get up and help with some things myself if I wasn’t busy.

I mean, everyone matters, right? All the teachers everyone leaves alone, the assistant principals and deans who do the dirty work when others don’t want to, the person who programs schedules and the secretaries who address attendance, and the random people who, upon seeing a situation, handle it themselves even when they know it’s going to stir problems later on. The guidance counselor who pull a frustrated kid from a class and calm her down, the PTA president or coordinator who rallies parents around a central issue that matters to the school environment and the director of a floor that doesn’t have a license but was put there out of necessity all keep the ride smooth for the passenger, even when the principal’s holding the gas pedal at 100mph.

Schools don’t just run. Things rarely ever just get done.

People work behind the scenes to ensure that schools run. Just because we don’t see people working on something doesn’t mean they’re not. If it’s a good school, chances are, there’s something about what each person does that eventually contributes to the environment. Part of that is Bernie Sanders’ point: we need to work on infrastructure and the sorts of things that make the least and neediest of our people better. It’s not just a poverty of economics, but a poverty of ethics.

When schools take on that model, the poverty only expands.

Jose, who never has to say “I said it” anymore. People just know.


Earth Day and the Word “Organic”

by Jose Vilson on April 22, 2010

in Jose

Earth Day 2010

Today, while walking to school, I noticed a huge group of volunteers who, after construction workers pulled out slabs of fresh concrete from the sidewalk, started to dig some earth and plant trees all around the school. Something about seeing earth and not dirt (note the difference) makes me think of the sorts of things our students in urban areas miss if they don’t get to go back to a “home country” like Dominican Republic or Mexico, or if they don’t get out to a countryside somewhere in Pennsylvania or Virginia. With all the majesty and acclivity of our multi-story high rises and intricate architecture, nothing can replace La Nature’s simplicity and textures.

While cooped up in my grey-colored school, some students from the school had the opportunity to help finish the work of the volunteers, getting a chance to touch earth for themselves, planting trees, and adding an accent to their neighborhoods. One of the teachers who went with them noticed how excited the students were to help, and be given the opportunity to do so, even as so many pundits and wonks ramble on about how lower-class urban students don’t even want to help (they do).

I bring this up because some of the discussion I’ve tried to start within whatever circle I can poke my opinion in has to do with this idea of organic. Everything’s going under the pretense of “natural,” and everyone’s thinking of going green. The processes we use to build schools and discuss students should come with that sentiment. Everything from our conversations with children to how we build curriculum should come with looking at our students’ needs, assessing our teachers’ strengths, and nurturing and growing these parts, not simply forcing these things on a population that may not feel like they need these so-called initiatives.

The plasticity of some educational components would make you think they’re indestructible. Rather, they’re just not bio-degradeable i.e. the school population, if it’s to remain healthy, won’t sustain itself with these components. Rather, they come from pieces that take time to grow. We plant them as seeds, watch them grow through careful observation and monitoring, and eventually let those plants give us new seeds from which to keep building. That takes time and dedication, and in the age of genetics, the human race finds new ways to take shortcuts on the natural.

And that’s what the seeds we teach and cultivate gravitate to the most. They want to feel like they’re growing positively, and that their experiences mean something. They want a little water. Unfortunately, not every seed grows well in the soil they’re placed in, but that’s part of farming. Every year, the planter gets better at cultivating.

Until then, we don’t want the toxins. Let the students feel the soil in their hands. Fresh, isn’t it?

Mr. Vilson, who always lets the work speak for themselves …


Eco-Friendly My Rear

by Jose Vilson on April 21, 2008

in Jose


Last night, my girl and I saw 88 Minutes, which I found to be a good enough movie to keep my attention. While watching the previews, I noticed a very environmental theme (that they almost literally shoved in our faces). There was talk about carbon footprints, recycling, and all the other buzzwords associated with environment-friendly groups. My overall feeling with that kind of advertisement is that, despite how eco-friendly these corporations want to look, the truth is that these entities don’t care so much for how the Earth is treated except when it behooves them to do so.

For example, someone on the big screen said that we should pressure our government officials to find alternative sources of energy, but I can without a shadow of a doubt say that these resources have been available since the 90s, if not earlier. As a matter of fact, I believe the first solar cells were made in 1883, and since then, we’ve had the ability to harness the sun’s energy and thus reduce the carbon output for some time. Yet, the sun is not a resource that can be easily monopolized or conquered. Thus, not many people have really invested in its power except for their own institution. Then again, if they’re able to sell us back tap water for $1.25, then there’s no telling how they’ll sell us back our natural resources.

I’m not going so far as to say that corporations shouldn’t help raise the social consciousness of people all around them, and maybe take heed of the current trends within society, but knowing everything I know about these companies, the wasted products, the tons of layoffs, the outsourcing and near-slave wages, and the ridiculous profit margins while the rest of us suffer from the increased cost of living, I just can’t see corporations as “eco-friendly” no matter how hard I try.

Thoughts? Solutions? Throw them in the box …

jose, who’s off to his first poetry event (that I’m not performing in) in over 6 months or so …

p.s. – a poem …

spiders creep in, surely and steadily spinning their webs of doubt across the mobile units trying to devour them slowly, creeping and spinning while we try to decipher the intricate patterns set around and across us, the spider spins with more legs, quicker, stickier, and stronger becomes that web, tick tap tick tap tick tap, let the hypnosis ring in your ear until all traces of your existence surround you, envelop you, and the king spider places his piece in for the checkmate … be ready to counter spider, spin your own web, before your role goes from predator to prey …