krs-one Archives - The Jose Vilson



My lunch period usually consists of a walk around the way with a strawberry-banana-mango protein shake and a baked empanada, enough to hold me over until five o’clock dinner, usually uninterrupted by the passersby, especially not a former student yelling my name for the entire neighborhood to hear.

“Oh my God, is that who I think it is?”

I push my Kangol a little lower, smile quietly, and keep walking, fully expecting to remain anti-social for my “duty-free” break.

I didn’t. He runs over and says, “Mr. VILSON!” and throws his long arms around me.

“What’s going on?!”

He’s always been a taller, lanky kid. I just didn’t realize that, at some point, he’d grow taller and have more facial hair. We all kinda want our kids to stay exactly the same as when we taught them. Rarely happens, but at least we get to watch in amazement as they went from feigning maturity to rooting themselves in it.

“Nothing much, just finished my first year in college. Things are going OK with everything …”

I’m already distracted by this idea that I at least helped one kid on the path to academic success. Bodes well for the kids I have now. I could barely quote the rest of his successes. His health. His pending marriage to his boyfriend / fiancee (he doesn’t believe in titles). His growth. His growth. His growth.

“How are things with you, Mr. Vilson?”

“They’re fine. All about that math.”

You know, I rarely veer from my script. It keeps me grounded.

“Well, as always it was a pleasure. Take care.”

This kid just made my day.

Teachers often need to find ways to re-energize and reinvigorate themselves, whether through professional development meetings or great discussions with their colleagues from different schools. What often gets lost in the midst of running forward is that we ought to keep one eye to the past. Sometimes, when that past revisits us and we glean a different perspective on the effects we have had on the people under our charge.

While teacher morale in this country has worsened, locally, teachers are still vested with the charge of helping students pave their own way towards positive and fruitful successes, no matter their station in life. Today, three of my former students recognized me on the street, the first of whom I described above. The second had errands to run with his mother, but assured me he went to college.

The third just got out of jail, and just started his GED program. The fact that he came up to me and admitted as such means more than any lie he might have cooked up. The best of us often act as pillars for those children, gurus in a time with so few role models for good, beacons of light even at our most imperfect.

Walking back into my school building, I just nodded to a beat, and rapped “Who gets weaker, the king or the teacher? It’s not about a salary; it’s all about reality. Teachers teach and do the world good …”

Mr. Vilson, who considers himself lucky often …

{ 1 comment }



On Monday, Law and Order premiered its episode about a mad teacher blogger who was ready to blow up a random NYC school for all the wrongs done to him and others like him, an episode aptly named “The Rubber Room.” Many of the stories I heard in the episode mirrored the real situations those teachers went through (and still go through) in the NYC school system. I’ll never be indignant enough to replicate the actions of the teacher blogger in the episode, but it led me to think about teacher blogging as a whole and why I blog. For more than half the episode, the blogger went by a pseudonym and only bloviating on his premeditated doomsday, never validating his profession with real accomplishments.

That’s why you, the reader, and I need to put our names to our works. In terms of Internet currency, it’s better than putting our money where our mouth is.

The most popular blogs tend to have a pseudonym that typifies the type of person the blogger is. Before I ventured into blogging under my own name, I had the comfort of hiding behind my nickname and discuss my job as I pleased … until I found out that people forwarded my posts to other people. I didn’t know where they forwarded them to, but if they ever got back to my boss, I knew I’d need a good strategy for keeping my job. I slept on this idea for a bit. Then, I woke up and thought about how much of an impact I made with my Internet colleagues and prospective teachers by speaking about my victories and frustrations with teaching.

Under a pseudonym, I was a nobody with a bunch of ideas. As Jose Vilson, I was a person anyone could look up (school and all) and verify truths and statements. Less commenters, more readers. Less cursing, more transparency. I had more credibility, and that puts more power into the things I say. Enter KRS-One:

Boogie Down Productions is made up of teachers
the lecture is conducted from the mic into the speaker
Who gets weaker? The king or the teacher
It’s not about a salary it’s all about reality
Teachers teach and do the world good
kings just rule and most are never understood
If you were to rule or govern a certain industry
All inside this room right now would be in misery
No one would get along nor sing a song
’cause everyone’d be singing for the king, am I wrong?!

- KRS-One, “My Philosophy”

No, KRS isn’t. There are two parts we should recognize with the previous lyrics. The first, of course, is that KRS-One is one of the greatest MCs of all time, but also the most contradictory. And that’s why people love him. Even on days when his opinions seem off-kilter to some, we have to respect what the man says because he’s so outspoken and lucid when it comes to his opinion. (We can extrapolate Five Percenter language as long as we’re true to the message, here.)

Secondly, his priorities align more to ours; he values the connectedness of teachers over the aloofness of rulers. Teachers push us to think critically whereas rulers push men and women to concede to their demands. That’s why it’s not about a salary, and it’s all about reality. The idea of poor righteous teachers doesn’t mean that we’re settling for less; it means that our pedagogy is inclusive of all who desperately need their voices elevated. That means you.

As I look at the edublogosphere, I see the trend leaning towards those who want to use their full names behind their blogs, even those who’ve achieved notoriety with their blogs. We have to keep putting pressure on governmental agents to include our voices in the dialogue for educational change. We have to keep writing, keep contributing to our communities, and keep our names on the front lines. When the educational boogeymen switch names but don’t switch agendas, we have to stand tall next to them holding them accountable. We may not have the money for mailings, but we have Google and Bing. We don’t have NY1 or local news stations, but we have Facebook and Twitter. We don’t have politicians in our back pockets, but we do have YouTube and Ning.

After honing that power, developing relationships with each other as a community, and investing in that power with our names, we’ll do more than get 1-sided 30 minute interviews with salesmen. We’ll be teaching. To the nation.


Thank you to Keishla for reminding me about this.

Mr. Vilson, who sites this as a resource from here on out …