randi weingarten Archives - The Jose Vilson

randi weingarten

Public Education For The Public Good (On Inclusion)

by Jose Vilson on March 9, 2014

in Jose

 

Jose Vilson, CCSS Panel, Network for Public Education

Jose Vilson, CCSS Panel, Network for Public Education

This past week has been nothing short of nuts.

I had the opportunity to attend (and present and moderate) at the first annual Network for Public Education Conference, a gathering of education activists from across the country, including Diane Ravitch (the organization’s president), Deborah Meier, Karen Lewis, John Kuhn, and a whole host of names everyone has seen in the education sphere.

My first real honor was tuning out adult voices as the moderator of the now-infamous student panel that included activists (and students) Stephanie Rivera, Hannah Ngyuyen, Chicago Student Union founder Isreal Muñoz, and Providence Student Union rebels Bryan Varela and Mayra Mostafa. As Chris Thinnes, who attended the conference live, noted, I assured that all of us stayed deferential to the students, both on the panel and in the audience. I brought out cards for the adults, and let the students in the audience do all the talking. Even with the powerful folks in the audience, Karen Lewis and Katie Osgood among them, I felt like we as adults could learn more by just listening to them and their thoughts for a change.

I still couldn’t shake the jitters, though. My calm exterior didn’t betray the internal angst of the notorious Sunday Morning Common Core panel with American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, moderated by edu-blogger and organizer Anthony Cody, and featuring a few others who’ve advocated passionately against the Common Core State Standards and the privatization of public schools (Mercedes Schneider, Paul Horton, Geralyn McLaughlin). Even though others thought it was going to be a 5 on 1, I never had that impression because a) I had cut down my social media intake by 80% or so and b) I don’t see why people felt I had to go “hard” against Randi Weingarten. Without my union, I probably couldn’t advocate as hard as I do.

So, I’ve written numerous times about my ever-evolving position on the CCSS, but, more importantly, I’ve written even more about how reforms always go through people of color first before they go to “white suburban moms.”

To that end, I felt a certain anger after the question was posed about whether folks should join up with the Tea Party to oppose Common Core. To that end, my answer came from a place that wouldn’t let me sit still. I had already known a few of the liberal audience members who wanted to join up with TP to oppose policy like student privacy and CCSS. I have a hard time with this for a few reasons:

  • Public education is for the public good. When most of the students primarily affected by these deleterious reforms are of color, how do we work with people who view folks of color as sub-human and still presume we’re doing good?
  • Public education is for the public good. If the Tea Party succeeds in having student privacy and CCSS addressed, should they continue to rely on liberals who aligned with them on privatization of public schools and anti-women’s rights agenda as well?
  • Public education is for the public good. Do we consider what it means to have an education for the public in the vision of so many of all colors who strived for a truly perfect union?

There’s a big difference between having a difference of opinion, as so many do with our union representatives, for example, and a difference of vision. The difference is in how we view others in the same tent. Do we see each other as equal, capable of leading this movement, or as subordinate, a step towards a goal that eventually excludes? Inclusion along race, gender, and class lines matters. Examining the ways in which we hinder ourselves is so crucial to this work.

I thank the Network for Public Education for inviting me to this tent. I’m just hoping my sleeping bag works as well as the others’ in the night.

Jose

p.s. – Thanks to Sabrina and Xian who were in the audience because … because.

{ 1 comment }

How I Might Have Intro’d The Bammy Awards

by Jose Vilson on September 24, 2013

in Jose

Secretary Arne Duncan and comedian Stephen Colbert, both of whose job I would do so much better at, but I'll stick to teaching anyways

Secretary Arne Duncan and comedian Stephen Colbert, both of whose job I would do so much better at, but I’ll stick to teaching anyways

There’s been lots of talk about this past Saturday’s Bammy Awards. I’ve written a bunch on diversity at the Bammys and even the executive producer left a comment here after our feisty discussion. However, I’ve kept mute during and after the Bammy Awards, letting others report out. As with any awards show, there were lots of bright spots and dim spots, almost all of them from people who actually attended. A discussion has erupted around the idea of humor and appropriateness in the education circle. Rather than speak on something I didn’t witness myself, I’d like a turn at introducing the Bammys. We’ll call it a do-over.

[Starts with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan welcoming everyone from his office. Insert platitudes about respect for teachers here. Zooms out where you see a black pair of pants on the left side of him. Duncan keeps talking, but as camera zooms out, audience notices Jose Vilson with "not impressed" face. Duncan keeps talking. Camera keeps zooming in to Vilson's face. Camera stops at his mouth. Vilson yells, "Welcome to the Bammyyyyyyyyssss!" with Chuck D impersonation.]

[Female voice says, "Welcome To The Bammys, with:". Reads list of every person there with a Klout score higher than 50 and other special guests, which is like everybody. She says, "Here's your host, Joseeeee Vilson!!!]

*cues up instrumental to “N-Words In Paris” by Jay-Z and Kanye West*

[Vilson runs on stage with a suit and Yankee brimmed hat]

Everybody scream!

So I teach so hard, Mayor Bloomberg wanna fire me, but first he gotta find me
What’s 50 grand to a teacher like me? That’s a lot, don’t you remind me!
(Teach so hard) I teach crazy, my teacher rating don’t even faze me
My kids could go 0 for 82 on their tests and I look at you like this job’s gravy
(Teach so hard) Teach so hard, this thing rare
We ain’t even supposed to be here!
(Teach so hard) Since we here, we might as well treat kids fair …

HA!

[Stop music]

OK, OK, OK, that was fun. Welcome everyone to the Second Annual Bammy Awards! We have a live audience today of some of the coolest kids in the sandbox gathered here today, and who better to MC this event than the guy whose faculty always pegs for the guy who’s gonna rap for karaoke? I mean, just because I know Fresh Prince’s “Summertime” by heart doesn’t mean …

Seriously, I’m OK with being one of [Vilson counts audience members] five Cocoa Puffs in a big bowl of milk. Really. I just made Errol Smith really uncomfortable. My bad, dawg.

By the way, Melinda Anderson didn’t write this one for me. I does it all by himself!

Also, I had to cut down my speech by 40% due to austerity measures. I’m doing most of this on comp time, so I’ll take a nap shortly after this.

So welcome to this set of awards. I flew in from New York City, and my arms are in fact tired. It’s been a lot of indecision over the last month. Indecision about who New York City wants for Democratic mayor, indecision over whether Obama’s gonna bomb Syria, indecision over whether I was wearing the long blue tie or the black bowtie. This is why smart men need smarter partners in their lives. And so do I. Thanks, Luz.

One thing I have decided is that, yes, Senator Ted Cruz is crazy! He’s at least worth five Buzzfeed articles and 20 GIFs. Is that like a currency now? If so, does Kenzo Shibata and the rest of the Chicago Teachers Union get to judge which ones make it from this audience? Aren’t you happy they won? Here’s a group of teachers who said, “We’re mad at hell! We want normal stuff like toilet paper for kids and open schools! Yes! We’re not gonna take it anymore!” This is where I’d make a GIF of Jonah Edelman followed by a tuba, preferably playing the “Price Is Wrong” theme song.

[Plays theme song for audience. Vilson makes fake sad face.]

You also probably noticed the inconspicuously dressed bodyguard at the door checking bags. Yes, that was Alfie Kohn scanning your bags and tossing out homework. Yes, it was. Doubt me if you must.

My friend and SLA principal Chris Lehmann’s here. You ever wonder why he smiles so much? I got the secret: he chews on his sons. I mean, Jakob and Theo never quit being adorable on Instagram. Actually, I get to judge your smiles based on how many chewable kids you have. Brand new parents tend to have the whitest teeth. It’s true.

Michael Doyle’s here. I heard him call me the greatest education blogger of all time. I know he didn’t say that, but I’ll take my award and leave anyways. Deuces! Errol’s looking at me right now like, “If this guy doesn’t stay right there …”

Mary Beth Hertz couldn’t be here, sadly. She’s a great Edutopia blogger out of Philly and she sends her regard. You’ll notice a slight change in her avatar if you’re following her on Twitter. Instead of hugging her tech tools and smiling at the camera, she’s flinging them at Mayor Nutter and every Philly school official in sight. She’s kinda angry. Right, Randi Weingarten?

John Spencer said he couldn’t be here. He says he doesn’t really wear suit and ties. Justin Timberlake does not approve.

That wasn’t funny? Scott McLeod thinks I deserve a better audience.

Audrey Watters isn’t in the audience yet. She’s at the bar drinking the Edmodo folks under the table. She deserves a badge for that.

A couple of big education books have come out recently. Invent to Learn by Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager came out, which explains the increase of pterodactyls all up in your timelines. No, I’m not calling Gary Stager old. Nor a flying reptile. Just when you search for “pterodactyl” on Ye Old Encyclopedia Brittanica … goodness, don’t you dare blog about this!

Reign of Error by Diane Ravitch came out this year. It was wild. Her marketing strategy was genius! Have a ton of popular bloggers and news outlets write about her and her upcoming book on their blogs and she’d link back to them to increase the dialogue. Shortly thereafter, she introduced the book to the people who actually like her!

The hate came in droves! It’s like those people who leave flyers on your door from all the restaurants you already tried and didn’t like. Except, because she’s an education historian, she goes to her computer and writes a book about it. The rest of us aren’t always as prodigious, I assure you.

Michelle Rhee came out with a book, too, entitled Radical. Now, now, DC, no need to boo. She says she’s a radical, but really, I think she’s a square. Chuckle, chuckle, math jokes, hardy. It’s about TIME!

Is Finland in the house? Oh. Cool. Finland is the one word everyone in education agrees on. Not sure what we’re agreeing upon, but Finland seems to be synonymous with the word “good.” In my next teacher conference, I’ll just tell my students’ parents, “Oh, your child’s doing Finland, yeeaah!” “Him? He’s not doing as Finland as he could, but he’s like the US. Yes, it means he ain’t that bad, either.”

Of course, The United States has to worry about our highest needs students. Our students in poverty need wrap-around services, support, and caring environments, instead of throwing bubble sheets at them while they’re ready to pop. Sometimes, it’s like we’re Dora and Boots telling politicians “Swiper no swiping,” and every time our country races somewhere or leaves a bunch of kids behind, Swiper turns around and says, “It’s tooooo late!” [Vilson inserts Swiper voice]

But there’s hope, and I know there’s hope because we got all you beautiful people in the audience here. Applaud for yourself. Parents, thank you for chasing kids down when they’re not doing their work. Teachers, thank you for waking parents up with your morning phone calls and progress reports. Students, thank you for annoying all of us with your “Can I go to the bathroom why are we learning math aw man I don’t wanna do homework?” questions because you make us better. Thank you, all! Thank you as well to the librarians, social workers, counselors, art teachers, phys. ed. teachers, and all the other staff that people wanna keep cutting out.

Dora says, “Swiper no swiping! Swiper no swiping! Swiper no swiping!” It’s their turn to say, “Aww man!”

Lastly, we have Nancy Carlsson-Paige, education speaker, activist, teacher … and Matt Damon’s mom. You know me, I love Matt Damon. Me and him go way back to the Save Our Schools March. He offered to write a blurb for my book and it would have read, “Oh, that guy. Yes, I remember now. Cool.” We roll deep, even after we once met once.

But I have some news for him. As much as he’s lauded by some of us for his education points of view, as an actor, he missed a few subjects, so now, I have a secret for everyone:

[Cues up "I'm F*ckin Matt Damon" by Sarah Silverman]

I’m teaching Matt Damon!
[Matt Damon appears on screen to sing along] He’s teaching Matt Damon!
I’m sorry, but it’s true! I’m teaching Matt Damon!
He’s teaching Matt Damon!
I’m not imagining it’s Bill Gates, I’m teaching Matt Damon!

Teaching English, teaching math, in my classroom’s where it’s at
Got Ben Affleck on the phone and he’s playing a bat

So I’m teaching Matt Damon! He’s teaching Matt Damon!

[Ends music]

Value-add THAT! Yes, I got away with the wildest joke in edu-history!

Thank you and welcome to the Bammy Awards!

Wild applause. Standing ovations. Likes, retweets, +1s, and hollers heard round the world. A few people wonder what a Buzzfeed is. They don’t have a Klout score, as far as Vilson can tell.

Jose

{ 1 comment }

The Rock Says, "Do You Like Pi?"

The Rock Says, “Do You Like Pi?”

A few notes:

Quote of the Week:

Two things helped me break through. The first, being vouched for by someone in a position of power who had a relationship with someone else in a position of power. I met that person when costs of investment were low: I worked for David Carr at a rate of $100 dollars a week and ten cents a word for anything I published. The first summer I worked for him, I made $1,700. I did not consider myself underpaid. This was 1996. The New Republic had just told the world that black people had evolved to be stupid, and it seemed like every week they were saying something just as racist. I was at Howard University, surrounded by a community of brilliant black people, cut off from the Ivies. None of them had the contacts or the resources to reply. They just had to take it. I can’t tell you how much that angered me. I was made in that moment. And when I got my first break in writing, I didn’t think about being ripped off. I thought about whipping ass. I haven’t changed.

- Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic, on writing “for free”. Worth the full read.

{ 0 comments }

The New York Times and Why Adding More Educators To Your Panel Matters

August 21, 2012 Jose
New-York-Times-Headquarters1

Last year around this time, I criticized the New York Times for not having many K-12 educators on their panel. Excuse me, for having maybe three current teachers and another handful of former teachers out of a possible 70 panelists. I laughed at the prospect of a public education system without any educators, and my […]

Read more →

A Letter About My View on the Common Core Learning Standards [Because "Shut Up" Isn't Clear Enough]

July 23, 2012 Jose
Kermit4

Dear Reader, Frankly, this post shouldn’t matter. I’m a classroom teacher first and foremost, and am often in situations where I can readily embody what most of my colleagues believe about education and the teachers’ role in education reform. It’s a privilege at times to rub elbows with union leaders, well-known activists, and other thought […]

Read more →