hurricane sandy Archives - The Jose Vilson

hurricane sandy

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An excerpt from my first post at the popular Schoolbook, a WNYC project:

As educators, we are charged with helping our children feel that, as wild as the world may seem, we will pull through. Parents, children, and other invested adults seek asylum in our schools because of our routines, the familiarity, and the dulcet vibrations of the students’ yells, whispers and laughter. The teachers start their classes with their usual routines. The deans remind students of the rules in the hallway as they walk to class. The principals address as many classes as possible about academics and general minutiae.

Whether we like to admit it or not, the seemingly mundane brings calm in any weather.

Read. Comment. Share. Like. Thanks!

Mr. Vilson, who wants to write a mini-manifesto mañana. Who’s with me?


“And know where all the exits are.” – Dan Willingham

A few notes:


“This strikes at the heart of why we’re so enamored with standardizing, predicting, and controlling things. “Data” seduces us into thinking we can predict and control things that are frequently unpredictable and uncontrollable, and therefore scary. We can’t really test our way into guaranteeing that 100 percent of America’s students will be destined for Yale instead of jail. But pretending we can is a heckuva lot easier than re-engineering the needlessly cutthroat, winner-take-all society that’s really putting our kids “at-risk.” When people feel threatened, they typically won’t take the risks change requires. So in order to continue helping all schools progress, we have to re-establish the sense of safety that helps people summon the courage and will they need to successfully navigate the inherently uncomfortable process of change.”

- Sabrina Stevens in GOOD, “If Educators Want Real Change, We Have To Work Together.


NYC schools are officially closed on Friday … for students. For teachers, Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Walcott sent out a memo to all teachers and administrators to go back to school on Friday. The cynical me remembers the few days in the school year when I tell my students they don’t have school but I do and they giggle and point, to which I reply, “It’s OK. We don’t want you here, either.” Gasps from them. “Just kidding.” Exhale. “Kinda.”

The more serious side of me wonders what the heck we’re going to do on a November day. I mean, I had this really awesome unit on scientific notation that ended with us trying to estimate how far the planets were away from each other, and it would have ended with a quiz that I’m sure they would have aced on average. Then, it got me thinking: none of us, and I mean NONE of us, actually knows what we’re going to do tomorrow.

Instead of kvetching about why Bloomberg and Walcott came to this decision, I’ve compiled a list of things teachers can do tomorrow that would make it really productive, starting from 10 to 1.

10. You can listen to someone speak at you for hours on end while doodling / checking e-mail / texting / eventually napping. (I wouldn’t advise it, on either end.)

9. You can come up with a Hurricane Sandy song to the tune of Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It Anymore.”

8. You can pretend to be students waiting in a teacher’s classroom and just switch roles every period.

7. You can pat each other on the back incessantly and tell each other how awesome you were for actually getting to school on Friday.

6. You can play “I’m Thinking of a Number” and have that number be someone’s VAM score … with that person screaming out the door, crying hysterically. (You’re so insensitive.)

5. You can finally find out what’s that thing wiggling and rustling the bottom of your papers that you haven’t graded yet. That stack never gets small, jeebus.

4. You can tweet or Facebook Pauly D, The Situation, and Snookie about what they’re going to contribute to the relief efforts for the Jersey Shore. (fixed)

3. You can play telephone with the entire staff. I specifically recommend this with staffs larger than 40. 40 is a nice, round number.

2. You can leave a stray karaoke machine in the auditorium and see who picks up the mic, because that’s the person you videotape singing The Police’s “Message In A Bottle” and that’s the video you start your Election Day PD with.

1. You can start the day by calling the parents and guardians of all your students to check on them and see if they’re OK. You can even make yourself available for people to come in and have their questions answered about the schools.

While we don’t know much about the effects of Sandy on our school system from home, I know we as a school system can do better in our roles as leaders in our communities. Many of us have families to comfort, basements to dry, and rummage to clean up. Alas, when students see us next week, we have a job to do, none of it concerning the students.

As people.

Jose, because it’s true.


So Much On My Mind That I Can’t Recline [On Hurricane Sandy]

October 30, 2012 Jose

The new moon rode high in the crown of the metropolis, Shinin’, like “Who on top of this?” – Mos Def in Blackstar’s “Respiration” Flashlights. Bottles of water. Cereal. Baby food. Milk. Batteries. Charged devices. Landline phone on deck. Ready-to-eat foods. As we went through the list at the supermarket, I found myself feeling stupid […]

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