An excerpt from my latest at the Future of Teaching:

Nowadays, people have little qualms about making friends online and meeting them in person. To wit, the Teaching 2030 team still has strong ties, even though we rarely get to see each other collectively. Part of that came from having a common goal and vision, but another part of it is building the right conditions to assure that everyone can come together for this common goal.

Whether we meet virtually or face-to-face, knowing the personnel matters.

Read. Share. Comment. Thanks!

Mr. Vilson, who can’t wait to see his students next week …


Xian Barrett has been one of my favorite education commenters in the last year or so. His commentary can simultaneously crack you up and crack your jaw, swelling and opening eyes unflinchingly. Today, CNN’s School of Thought asked him to contribute to their blog. Good on you, CNN. Observe:

Most Chicago teachers give our all in very challenging conditions. A recent Gates study suggests that the average teacher works 53 hours per week, while University of Illinois researchers found that Chicago teachers work approximately 58 hours per week. Several years ago, I counted my own hours and found that I was consistently working between 70-90 hours each week. Through challenging conditions, we impact hundreds of students positively every day; sometimes in small ways, sometimes in earth shattering, life-changing ways.


On any given day, I will spend two hours at home creating my own lesson plans or adjust existing materials to the specific needs of my students. I will also sit down to grade papers and return calls and messages. Many of my texts, emails, Facebook, Twitter and phone messages are from current students, usually regarding homework and several are from former students needing a letter of recommendation or support on some life emergency.

The other day, I finally called back my mother who’s been calling me for days. She says, “You sound tired, I’m going to let you go.” I set my alarm for 4:30 a.m., and glanced at my cell phone. It was 1:14 a.m. I fell asleep on the couch.


Of course, the current talk about professionalizing teachers consists of them working harder for more hours. Two problems with this line of thinking. First, we aren’t getting paid more, we’re getting paid for the hours we’re actually working. Secondly, it assumes that most of us don’t work harder than the clocked minutes we’ve been given. I don’t have any concrete data on this [ahem], but many teachers have told me that they don’t even start families of their own because they work with so many at a time for more than half the year. I know for certain that the United States has the highest face-to-face time out of any “developed” country in the world, so giving us more time might not be the solution.

Some of this misplaced time management comes from people’s beliefs about some of the alternative or charter schools where time knows no bounds. These environments tend to burn teachers out quickly, and those students never get the “expert” teacher because they become the  guinea pigs year after year. Some of us have to restrict the time we spend thinking about school because we do it so often already because, if not, we get burned out too.

When Xian asks non-educators to listen to teachers and for teachers to speak clearly about what teachers go through on a daily basis, we have begun a conversation that gets people to consider solutions. In my heart of hearts, I believe the American public believes in us; we prove it with tireless effort towards improving our own profession.

Jose, who will have a book giveaway on Thursday …


In school, I’ve developed the mannerism of using “sir” and “miss” (or misses) when greeting colleagues and, to some extent, students. The greeting puts a small distance between me and the person I address. People might take this as a sign of deference or even subservience, yet my stature and demeanor reveals nothing of the sort. Anytime people mistake my courtesy for tenderness or servitude, they quickly find my discourteous side, the one that won’t go the extra mile to meet both of our needs, the one that won’t stay extra hours, the one that will play directly into the Angry Black Man stereotype.

Because, as a Black man, there’s little worse for one’s professionalism than being told you’re a “Yes man.”

The same goes for the term “groupie,” or for those who think they can keep their insulted coded, “sycophant.” In many of our professions, we’re asked to do things at times we don’t exactly agree with all in the name of the principal’s vision. Sometimes, we object to things behind closed doors in order to create a united front in front of everyone else. In certain instances, we might help create pieces we don’t intend on every using in our own practices. Even hardliners often find themselves in predicaments where they have to choose between making a minor compromise or diminishing their professional aspirations. In a previous life, I might tell them to curse everyone out and create their opportunities. Yet, nothing is ever that simple, and we shouldn’t expect it to be.

As we whittle the ceiling, we often get asked to do more than the ordinary to prove ourselves ordinary.

When people of color have these conversations, it takes on another level of societal angst, for we always have to think of our ancestries and the perils they undertook for the present generation to get to the point of having better control of their destinies. Our professionalism often comes into question as is: we’re asked to fit into molds we didn’t individually create for people who may not see us as multidimensional beings (no matter what The Cosby Show did!). Our attitudes and body types become a reflection of our cultures as a whole, and our emotions say more about our people than we mean.

Thus, when I say people of color often have to work twice as hard and do things twice as well, I mean that, if we don’t, we become casualties of a meme we didn’t create. Observers often confuse quiet for consent rather than finding the right time, nodding as agreement rather than patience, and position as power rather than a step in one’s professional direction and interest. Yet, observers don’t ask deeper questions very often, like, “If this person has all these beliefs, then why do this?”

Too many people won’t ask this. They presume the worst already.

On these occasions, I’m forced in a position to reassert my individuality. The distance between other entities and me inches a bit further away, the consummate optimist takes a small rest for the straight shooter, and the ebullient “sir” becomes the stern “sir.”

Even when not wearing all black anything, we become all Black everything. It’s the only suit that suits us this well.

Jose … and Mr. Vilson


Drawing The Line

May 1, 2008 Jose

After the Immigration Protest today in Union Square (all the way to Federal Square), I finally decided to draw some lines where I needed to. If I’m going to talk about standards, then I need to start applying those in my life. Not that I haven’t, but I think I gave too much leeway because […]

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Can’t Tell Me Nothing

April 17, 2008 Jose
Miguel Tejada as a Baltimore Oriole

Excuse the double negative, my people, but a brotha’s got a little less patience for fools than usual. Imagine me watching ESPN today, when I see a segment about 4-time All-Star (possibly more if not for the Jeter-A-Rod-Garciaparra collective from a few years back) and future Hall of Famer Miguel Tejada, now a member of […]

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