pedagogy Archives - The Jose Vilson


Here’s an excerpt from my latest at Edutopia (including a diss on Robert Marzano and the like). It’s about engaging math teachers:

Keep This Rule of Thumb: Complete, Consistent, Correct

By “complete, consistent, correct,” I mean we should allow multiple pathways to a correct answer that a) allow for full understanding of a given procedure, b) can be used time and again without fail, and c) actually have a sound basis in math. While it sounds constricting, it removes some of the limitations we’ve set for ourselves when looking at student work.

For instance, when finding 25% of 80, the most basic thing we can do is turn the percent into a decimal (0.25) and multiply that decimal by 80. The result is 20. Yet when I presented this problem to a seventh grade class just learning this, one of the students astutely observed that 10% of 80 is 8, and 25% is just 10% + 10% + 5%. They doubled 8 (16), then took half of 8 (4), and added the results (16 + 4 = 20).

Some teachers might mark that incorrect because it doesn’t follow the exact procedure they asked for, but we really should accept such a response fully, not just because of the answer, but because the procedure the student used works time and again.

Read more here. Share with your friends. Comment. Thanks!

Mr. Vilson, who wants Friday to be over already, and it’s only Thursday …

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Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson with wife Rachel, Hall of Fame

First, I’d like to acknowledge that, on the chance that you’re actually celebrating Black History Month, congrats. You haven’t let the Common Core madness deter you from celebrating culture, whether it’s your own or someone else’s.  The decorations will spring up. Common faces like Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Benjamin Banneker, and Will Smith will border the walls of a few classrooms, and probably a few hallways. There might be a fact-a-day in the announcements, and one in 400 schools might have someone who knows the Black National Anthem. (I know you’re mumbling it after the fourth line.)

But, has it ever occurred to you that, as well-intentioned as this might be, we ought to take the next step and celebrate Black history on March 1st as well?

We already know that Black History Month wasn’t meant to stay as lack History Month. Carter G. Woodson intended for this celebration to happen until it clicked for curriculum creators to speak to the story of the American Negro as part of the American history, and not just in platitudes and the Civil Rights movement.

People often argue that, when we stop celebrating Black History Month, people will start celebrating year-round, and there’s no way I’ll ever argue that. In fact, we should start celebrating all cultures and colors year-round so the need for specialized months for our marginalized groups would look antiquated. In other words, put John Steinbeck and Malcolm X quotes together, and celebrate The Beatles and the Temptations simultaneously. We can celebrate Michelle Obama as part of the lineage with Barbara Bush and Eleanor Roosevelt.

To Kill a Mockingbird in English class is a start, and so is having a Black president. Yet, we have so much pushback, I always wonder if we’ll ever not need a Black History Month. The “civil rights issue of our time” has a severe lack of sincere educators willing to tackle on the issue of diversity without trying to let go of their privilege, too. With the decline of black teachers happening all over the country (Chicago a prime example), it’s time for our White brethren to teach with compassion and understand on the issue of race if they aren’t already.

So jump into Black History Month, and get your feet wet with some of this history. Do your research a bit and drop the dime in a child’s ear, because that might inspire them to aspire. But once February 28th hits, leave those chapters open and bookmark those links.

The kids still need to know that there were, are, and will continue to be people who look just like them that positively impacted the lives of others, role models for the lack thereof in present times.

Jose, because this is to the memory of Hadiya Pendleton …


If Every Other Word Out Of Your Mouth Is “Common Core”, You’re The Problem

January 15, 2013 Jose
Oh come on now! Really, Kentucky? REALLY?!

Do me a favor and stop it. Just stop it, you. Yes, you. You’re ridiculous now. Every other word out of your mouth is “Common Core.” That’s enough out of you. I’m all for people having a voice, a seat at the table, and entitlements to opinions and such, but you’re not going to sit […]

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Five Ways You Can #OccupyTheClassroom [It's About Time]

October 6, 2011 Jose

For World’ Teachers’ Day, all the big edu-wigs broke out in song about saluting great teachers, trying to stretch their arms out their offices far enough to find a teacher they’d consider effective and Kumbaya them to death.  The billows of hollow praise doesn’t whittle away the troubling issues with education.On that day, teachers all […]

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What’s Next: Auto-tuning Our Lessons, Too? [On The Future of Teaching]

September 14, 2011 Guest Posts

Excerpt: For some of our less fortunate colleagues, they may get mandated to use a scripted curriculum pre-written for them. This method has some validity with those who don’t get the training in their ed-schools (and trust me, there’s lots), but should teachers prescribe to this method? At some point, we have to ask ourselves, […]

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Well, If You Don’t Teach It, How Will They Know? [Beware the Ides of March]

March 15, 2010 Jose
Julius Caesar Statue in Rome, Italy

What does it mean when a teacher says, “They don’t know ..?” That’s often my quandary when I listen to the conversations about our students in classrooms all across the city (and in some cases, the nation). Topics like fractions, percentages, decimal places, and other seemingly rudimentary topics evade many of our students, and many […]

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