frank mccourt Archives - The Jose Vilson

frank mccourt

Short Notes: On The Brink Of

by Jose Vilson on October 25, 2009

in Short Notes

Muse: The Resistance

Muse: The Resistance

A few notes:

  • I haven’t done this short notes format because I’ve had more to talk about topically. Now, I have a lot less time but more things happening. Perfect for this format.
  • I’ve noticed that many educators in the digital age have taken on the vision of Frank McCourt, who once said that, when it comes to K-12 education, they never ask teachers, but ask the “leaders.” Not that I think there’s anything wrong with being a thought leader or the president of an educational organization. I’ve met many of those types lately due to this venue that everyone and no one knows about yet. When it comes down to it, it’s important for teachers, rank-and-file or otherwise, document their experiences and publicize their experiences in the name of adding more dimensions to the idea of “teacher.”
  • Funny. Right after I wrote that “I Almost Quit Twitter” post, I found a purpose in staying: livetweeting the Yankee games. People seem to enjoy me talking junk about everyone in the field and making obscure reference to Derek Jeter’s throng of women and Bobby Abreu’s hair product. Let’s hope this lasts into November. Then I can publish that “I Quit Twitter” post in my queue. (You guys know I love Facebook more anyways.)
  • Sometimes, I have this theory that the higher the highs, the lower the lows. For instance, this week, as I mentioned on my Facebook and Twitter, I’ve been mentioned in a couple of spots that got me pretty excited. First, there was Tara L. Conley’s presentation on the promulgation of ideas via Twitter, and then Raquel Cepeda’s article on the definition of Latino as it pertains to Latino in America the series. In both, the ladies quoted me and I’m certainly grateful. I’ve also started doing a bit of inquiry as it pertains to writing books and articles, and LANSU, my Syracuse University alumni organization, seems to finally be getting its feet firmly set. Yet, all the other personal things have made it hard to celebrate these events. I love the chaos and anarchy, but simultaneously crave a bit of order and regularity. In times like these, when I need the most reassurance and confidence, I also realize I have to find these qualities within and for myself. Otherwise, who will?

Jose, who’s on the brink of things bigger than himself …


Frank McCourt and The Whole Teacher Respect Issue

by Jose Vilson on July 20, 2009

in Jose

Frank McCourt

Frank McCourt

Today, I read a great article from Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters via the Huffington Post in which she lauds the virtues of the recently late Frank McCourt, former great NYC public school teacher and author of Angela’s Ashes. In the article, I found this point by McCourt particularly poignant:

When did you last see a teacher on a talk show? Movie stars and athletes and politicians — criminals! They all get on the talk shows. But not the teachers. They are regarded as dull people. The ones who take care of the children every day. Almost like super babysitters. That’s the way they are treated.

And then when you do see something on television, a panel on education, you see someone from the board of education, you see a professor of education, or you see a bureaucrat, someone from a think tank, a politician, but never a teacher. Never. Imagine a panel on medicine without a doctor? The uproar there would be from the medical profession!

But all the politicians think they own education. Just the way the pope and the cardinals think they own the [Roman Catholic] Church. Which they do, of course. We don’t get the keys. The politicians have the keys to the educational system, they control the purse strings, and they don’t have a clue about what education is. I know they’ve been to school and all themselves, but what goes on in the classroom is another story.

Of course, my reply had less to do with the rantings and ravings of a madman as it had to do with trying to seek McCourt’s spirit:

I found the point about expertise and teachers particularly poignant. When do teachers like me or the other teachers I know actually get tapped as experts of their own experiences? I can’t remember the last time I saw something on a national scale that let teachers just talk about their experiences in a panel. With that said, I also know that when teachers DO get documented, it’s always in the classroom and it’s usually not about anything abstract like policy, but more concrete like the day-to-day stuff, as if we’re that simple. Unfortunately, even with all the teachers that blog and write, we still have this idea that teachers are indeed boring and one dimensional.

Now, let’s not be confused. A part of me feels that those of us in social services ought not to delve too deep in the realm of stardom as it detracts from the constituents you’re trying to serve. Yet, a larger part of me says that it’s about time teachers stop being relegated to fairy-tale movies, political ads, and instructional videos. All three of these forms of the teacher image do nothing more than limit the dimensions of the spheres of influences we have. Even the bad news about teachers across the nation tends to be of a strictly sexual nature, so there’s a limiting of dimensions.

Honestly, those of us who are teachers or care about education have to ask ourselves a bunch of questions about the profession. Those of us just starting the teaching profession and eventually the education track (because there’s a difference between a teacher and an educator, in my opinion) should pay close attention. For one, if we’re talking money, do we think that if we got paid 100K to do our jobs, we’d have an elevated status as a result when we can’t really advocate for ourselves and our supposed advocates just let people talk crap about how ineffective we are?

Not saying we shouldn’t get paid more, but it’s a good question to raise. That’s why I believe so much in the work so many of us are doing on the Internet and out there on the turf. We need more of us who have talents outside of the educational realm to inject that into their teaching, thereby stretching the margins of what a “teacher” looks like. Like writing a tale of what it’s like to suffer in Ireland. Like teaching for decades in NYC high schools and still have your head high. Like giving inspired lectures about education.

Like Frank McCourt. Teach In Peace, Mr. McCourt. Here’s hoping you get your own lecture hall somewhere in the sky …

Jose, who’s still having lively discussions about this in various message boards …

p.s. – Feel free to disagree with me. Honest.