responsibility Archives - The Jose Vilson


No, not this again.

“This kid never takes personal responsibility for anything that they ever do. I’m standing there wondering why this kid is literally sleeping in my class, so I walk up to him and tell him to get out of my classroom! The nerve of him to try to get one over on me. I get paid whether or not they do well, but for them to sit there and do nothing? Get out!”

Does she even wonder why … nevermind. I inquire a bit more. She replies,

“Well, he comes in with those stupid cream cheese sandwiches from next door and he thinks he’s going to eat in my classroom and get his grubby little hands on my stuff, he’s got another thing coming. And then, he’s getting pissy because I tell him he needs to get ready for class and puts his head down. I can’t stand him!”

This conversation hasn’t happened in the last few months for me, mainly because I don’t eat in the teachers’ lounge anymore (more on that later), but I’ve heard this said so many times, I almost started to believe the hype. I could continue from here saying how my mom, unlike others’ parents, prioritized education. I, unlike other kids, paid attention to everything my teacher said and gave all my teachers demi-god status. Most of my professional, formerly low-income friends of color might say the same things about beating the odds and focusing on their intellectual pursuits.

I’m also privileged to have talents in academics, too. Others might never realize their own privilege when walking into situations with kids.

As most of you know, personal responsibility is often used as a euphemism for ignoring the environmental effects of poverty, race, class, gender, and a host of other isms we all ought to embody if we consider ourselves change agents. Even men of color who came from these tough backgrounds tap into the personal responsibility argument to get into the good graces of people who might not otherwise hear their messages. Some teachers use the personal responsibility argument on its face because it’s a lot easier than navigating through their own frustrations with a system seemingly meant to fail them. Principals and district leaders hawk it sometimes when scores go down more often than not.

The whole spectacle reeks of tree pissing.

Don’t talk to me about personal responsibility unless you balance it out with a good, rich discussion of socio-emotional foci and a keen sense of relationship building between yourself as the adult / teacher and the child / student. For instance, in the midst of discussion, you might hear me say, “Well, he doesn’t work hard enough on this” or “He needs to come prepared for class,” but best believe they know how much I care about their well being. I’ve only sent kids to the principals’ office three times, and I still have a goal of zero. I let them eat breakfast and talk while working, but in exchange, my expectations for their work increase.

I don’t walk around the room with a sense of entitlement, nor do I ever say I’ll get paid for this job anyways because my kids (yes, my KIDS) need to know that there’s someone who simultaneously holds them accountable and tries to work with them as people. Because they are people. That’s my personal responsibility to them.

Jose, who has a conversation with himself tomorrow …

Do Your F*ck!n Job

September 17, 2007

Baby ManMayor Bloomberg’s latest ideas on creating incentives for people doing what they’re supposed to do annoys the shit out of me. I hate to curse in a forum of this nature, as my professionalism hinges on my lack of cursory language, but give me a break. I’m already hearing the murmurs of people jumping for joy for the idea of getting paid for what they’re supposed to do. That’s annoying to no end.

How can we talk about how corrupt these corporations are, yet the elected officials up there have tried their hardest to make every facet of NYC life into such a corporation? There’s also no way anyone can talk about independence, self-determination, and freedom of any nature when, if these incentive programs go through, we will definitely see people become dependent on these incentives for things that people should already be doing.

Parents should already be taking care of kids. Kids should focus and study for their tests, and not just the statewide one either.  Parents and children together should work towards getting the students into the classroom AND excelling in the classroom. Teachers, administrators, and staff should be doing their respective part to make schools a place where people want to come.

This is a serious case of good cop / bad cop. BloomKlein (I didn’t coin it, but I’m not afraid to use it) are more than willing to show up at functions for speeches and photo ops, giving away “free” money to kids who want to go to a private school through vouchers or giving them anywhere from $25 to $200 for what’s really our responsibility, but they won’t improve the public school system they run on their own and make the principals and teachers the scapegoats on this whole new “accountability” movement.

This is not to say that teachers are perfect. Just today, I had a conversation with colleagues about how we need to have more theoretical classes and professional development sessions that really mattered and not just a way to help cajole the higher-ups into thinking they’re doing their jobs. We also need to conduct ourselves more professionally in certain arenas, and a lot less gossip helps out too. We should also make a better effort to improve in our craft, whether it be picking up books during the summer, attending technology workshops, or even participating in online communities or otherwise during some of the free time.

Yet, when it comes to actually being ready for work, I don’t think we should get paid extra to do so. I don’t think teachers should get some sort of bonus for a) when their kids make significant gains on the ELA and Math state exams or b) score mainly 3′s and 4′s. Those type of bonuses encourage union divisions and compare directly with parents getting paid to do what already comes with their contracts: if you can’t do meet these minimum requirements, then why are you doing this job?

Of course, though, the examples we set for each other has to come from the top. We forget that this is really a top down system, and that the behaviors we exhibit in any system starts from the people running the government. I mean, we pay taxes when we’re not supposed to (according to the Constitution), but we do it because it’s just a part of how we live. NYCers stopped smoking in bars because Bloomberg outlawed it. Why can’t he be more considerate when it comes to the smoke and mirrors we’re constantly subjected to about responsibility?

People just need to do their job. Of course, it’s much deeper than that, but that’s what it comes down to. Do your damn job.

jose, who’s fed up with some of these inconsistencies …