inspiration Archives - The Jose Vilson



I started off the morning with a heavy dose of Stevie Wonder and Aventura, a random sampling of love songs I have on my iPod just to pass the time on the train. The building is super-silent at the time I get in there, perfect for getting my mind and papers ready for the 8am start. About 55 minutes later, the din grows into a chatter, then a squeal and sneaker screeches. School begins with adults ushering children into classes. When I step out in the hallway, the pinks and reds worn by children and teachers dominate the blue and green paint pervasive in our hallways. Girls with heart-patterned gift bags and roses, and boys secretly tucking their chocolate boxes in the bags, all try to find their pseudo-paramours before they get into their first period class.

As I walk down this hallway, one of my student ambassadors walks by with a bouquet of roses. When I noticed her, I immediately joked, “Oh, for me? You shouldn’t have!” Kids usually reply to that with a tucking away and stiff arm about two feet in front of them just to make sure we don’t get any ideas about touching their gift. Today was different.

“Actually, one of them is for you, but I gotta find a way to get this one out.”

“You know I was just kidding right?”

“Yeah, but seriously, one of them is for you. Actually, it’s this one right here.”

Um, what? I blinked rapidly for a second, then said, “Take care of all your other people first.”

When I went back to my office, I got back to work on a few things when, true to her word, she handed me a dark pinkish rose. I said, “Thank you.” She said, “You’re welcome,” and went on her merry way.

Now, I don’t normally show emotion during school to be honest. Having a professional manner and attire more than makes up for my occasional disorganization ["I know where everything is, but you might not."], and keeping a little bit of extra distance from the students you serve assures that we clearly delineates the roles we play in school. [READ MORE]

{ 1 comment }

Short Notes: Why We Shouldn’t Grade Schools

by Jose Vilson on November 25, 2012

in Short Notes

Before I proceed, dozens of people from various school districts have told me that my site is blocked on their school computers. In the event that it is, you can always get my articles via e-mail by signing up on the right-hand side of this blog or by subscribing via RSS for my savvy readers, also on the right-hand side.  They can block my site’s URL, but they can’t block your e-mails or your RSS reader.

A few notes:


“Yesterday, we had a nice conversation on Twitter [with regards to] experience, newbies, and challenges in teaching profession. It’s been a busy semester and what I share online is to try to bridge understanding as to what’s happening on the ground level, the ground zero of education reform, [namely] the school. So I share this: whose fault is it that a rambunctious classroom wreaks havoc on a campus? The teacher, the admin, the school, the system? We have a math/science shortage in the U.S. so we import teachers in these areas from the Philippines where [their education] system is vastly different. They arrive in South Central [Los Angeles], shell-shocked. The district mandates struggling readers to take a prescribed curriculum, READ 180.

Students are grouped together because behavior issues are strongly correlated to reading difficulties. By end of the day, kids are up to no good. The teacher new to the country struggles. [There's no money] for mentors, no money for appropriate number of admins to supervise teachers adequately, plus a language barrier. Do we expect such students to not throw chairs, not say f**k you to staff members before eight in the morning, or not throw bloody maxi pads around? So, in conclusion, experience matters, but so does a well-funded educational system, community resources to combat poverty and empathy by all.

- Martha Infante, emphasis and brackets mine



A Repertoire for the Imperfect

by Jose Vilson on November 27, 2011

in Jose

El Cantante

Last night, my fiancee and I watched El Cantante, a first-person retelling of legendary salsa star Hector Lavoe’s life of music, drugs, and suicide through the eyes of his wife Nilda “Puchi” Perez. For anyone who caught the movie and knew anything about the music and times in which the movie takes place, you’d agree with Willie Colon’s assessment that the creators of this movie “missed an opportunity to do something of relevance for our community. The real story was about Hector fighting the obstacles of a non-supportive industry that took advantage of entertainers with his charisma and talent. Instead they did another movie about two Puerto Rican junkies.”

As I started looking at all the so-called heroes from the histories I can remember, my first assessment could be that no hero in the generic sense has their flaws. Upon further inspection, these flaws and afflictions create the hero, setting the foundation for the layers we see in their products and giving an entry for those less talented / exalted to examine their lives. In spite of our human inclination to grasp for our heroes’ divinities, it’s their humanity which we ought to examine further. In Hector Lavoe’s case, the drugs, death, and ghosts that haunted him made the music as powerful as any trombone or drum set could.

In our search for some moral purity, we often miss out on those from whom we can learn something. Cultural purists would have us believe that great people only come from a certain breed or strand of individual. They jump on their high horses, never knowing that the higher the horse, the easier to shoot them down.

That’s why people like me and you, mainly you, need to embrace that which makes us fallible, erroneous, or sullied to a degree. That’s why I watched El Cantante with such fascination, knowing the factual loopholes in the story. No one condones the cocaine abuse, the lasciviousness, the abandonment of his first one, the neglect of his second, or his constant tardiness for shows that people paid their hard-earned monies to watch, his faults only gave his music texture, which is why people still proudly play his music everywhere from Spanish Harlem to Zaire.

As a society, we ought to have laws, and admonish those who make egregious mistakes in character, but our judgment should have limits too. Every human being has potential. Whenever or wherever they find inspiration for their contributions to society need examination, but so do we. At the heart of the matter is whether we can still make connections, even when the person makes our moral compass spin out of control. Control doesn’t make much in the way of innovation.

Or kicking ass.

Mr. Vilson, who has more ass to kick this week …

{ 1 comment }

On Being Difficult

July 24, 2011 Jose

A few weeks ago, my good friend John Holland and I were discussing some really good conversation ranging from music to education. Every time we have a conversation, whether it’s by ourselves or in a group context, the back-and-forth reminds me of a never-ending ladder. One time, as we got into this type of discussion, […]

Read more →

Teaching Patience Where There Is None

November 4, 2010 Jose

Today, I felt compelled to break down some skills around adding like terms because kids were still a little confused between 3x and x^3. Many adults profess this, too. Yet, anyone who does understand this tend to roll their eyes at those who don’t. For that matter, anyone who gets anything finds it vital to […]

Read more →

With Your Hearts Wide Open

June 28, 2010 Jose
(A Part of) My Kids at Yankee Stadium

Last night, and over the last few weekends, I’d been working on a piece (of poetry) for my students, one that I hope they’d remember, that would capture the memories we had for so long. I couldn’t come up with anything appropriate until last night. I couldn’t have it be too sad or too corny, […]

Read more →