satire Archives - The Jose Vilson


A Scene Left In The Cutting Room of the Film 300

A Scene Left In The Cutting Room of the Film 300

This morning, I woke up to the news that a pilot program starting in a few states, including Connecticut and New York, would add 300 more instructional hours to the school year starting in 2013. I don’t know about you, but I have yet to see a real study showing a positive correlation between classroom time (teacher-student face-to-face for a designated class) and student achievement. If you’re not as informed with the research, your natural inclination is to say “Yes! More schooling sounds great.” What it usually means, however, is that those 300 hours get used for test prep and, well, more test prep.

No recess, no extracurriculars, no special electives.

What’s more, some of us (:: ahem ::) can do lots more with less periods a week. Currently, I teach two classes at eight periods a week. If I had them at five periods a week, I just freed myself up to plan for the remaining three. Interestingly enough, the US leads the world in classroom time, so why argue that we want to compete against the world when we’re already blowing the rest of the world away in this category?

Because that’s what America does. Oversized stadiums, supersized fries and drinks, and large enough egos to believe that those who don’t know much about education can run it. Cool.

So, rather than completely dump on the idea that adding 300 hours (the equivalent of over a month more school!) would provide better numbers, I thought about some ways in which we can use all this time more effectively:

5. Take more trips.

Yes. More trips. But we’d take educational trips. On the subway, you learn lots about civics. At the park, you always have that one guy willing to teach the kids about contacting their inner nature. When half your kids can’t really afford lunch, you take the whole class back just in time. That’s math.

4. Read more non-fiction texts.

Like the appendices for the Common Core State Standards. After reading them, I figure my students can learn the appendix back and forth, left and right, just to spend the time. It’ll be excruciating, but maybe I can do impersonations of David Coleman.

3. Wait.

Waiting sounds like fun. It’s only 37 days or so. My shoes are new enough that I can keep tapping them. Yep. Just waiting. Any minute now …

2. Tell More Stories.

Nothing in our contracts says we can’t tell stories. Maybe we can all become storytellers. We can stop every seven minutes between examples of problems with a “I remember this one student …” The students will eventually get tired of it. Then, they’ll remember you for it. Then they’ll hate you for it. Then the test will come. Then they’ll want more of your stories. Less about pineapples without arms.

1. Start an “opposite day” challenge.

For the last few decades, America keeps saying they want to compete with the rest of the world academically, yet keep doing the opposite of what everyone else has learned. So, instead of doing the opposite of what other countries do, let’s do the opposite of what we already do, just for those 300 hours or so. It’s a pilot, so we won’t punish anyone for trying it. We’ll test it over a few years and see how it works. If that happens, we’ll include things like recess and real homeroom. We’ll let teachers get into natural teams instead of “inquiry teams,” and give teachers enough time to get through all that paper work. Maybe we’d get paid properly to compensate for the other days we don’t. We’d have the most qualified teach our kids most in need, and administrators will have taught for a good chunk of their careers at an effective level.

Only for the 300 days.

If that works out, then we’d scale it and localize it to America’s teachers, and keep this opposite behavior going until it becomes our regular behavior, making the opposite behavior archaic.

Alas, this is Sparta America.

Jose, who wants DMX to do a whole album of these …


NYC schools are officially closed on Friday … for students. For teachers, Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Walcott sent out a memo to all teachers and administrators to go back to school on Friday. The cynical me remembers the few days in the school year when I tell my students they don’t have school but I do and they giggle and point, to which I reply, “It’s OK. We don’t want you here, either.” Gasps from them. “Just kidding.” Exhale. “Kinda.”

The more serious side of me wonders what the heck we’re going to do on a November day. I mean, I had this really awesome unit on scientific notation that ended with us trying to estimate how far the planets were away from each other, and it would have ended with a quiz that I’m sure they would have aced on average. Then, it got me thinking: none of us, and I mean NONE of us, actually knows what we’re going to do tomorrow.

Instead of kvetching about why Bloomberg and Walcott came to this decision, I’ve compiled a list of things teachers can do tomorrow that would make it really productive, starting from 10 to 1.

10. You can listen to someone speak at you for hours on end while doodling / checking e-mail / texting / eventually napping. (I wouldn’t advise it, on either end.)

9. You can come up with a Hurricane Sandy song to the tune of Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It Anymore.”

8. You can pretend to be students waiting in a teacher’s classroom and just switch roles every period.

7. You can pat each other on the back incessantly and tell each other how awesome you were for actually getting to school on Friday.

6. You can play “I’m Thinking of a Number” and have that number be someone’s VAM score … with that person screaming out the door, crying hysterically. (You’re so insensitive.)

5. You can finally find out what’s that thing wiggling and rustling the bottom of your papers that you haven’t graded yet. That stack never gets small, jeebus.

4. You can tweet or Facebook Pauly D, The Situation, and Snookie about what they’re going to contribute to the relief efforts for the Jersey Shore. (fixed)

3. You can play telephone with the entire staff. I specifically recommend this with staffs larger than 40. 40 is a nice, round number.

2. You can leave a stray karaoke machine in the auditorium and see who picks up the mic, because that’s the person you videotape singing The Police’s “Message In A Bottle” and that’s the video you start your Election Day PD with.

1. You can start the day by calling the parents and guardians of all your students to check on them and see if they’re OK. You can even make yourself available for people to come in and have their questions answered about the schools.

While we don’t know much about the effects of Sandy on our school system from home, I know we as a school system can do better in our roles as leaders in our communities. Many of us have families to comfort, basements to dry, and rummage to clean up. Alas, when students see us next week, we have a job to do, none of it concerning the students.

As people.

Jose, because it’s true.


Here is another recent interview with Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski and yours truly. The piece never made it into Yahoo!, but he e-mailed it to me anyways.

The scene here is the usual: arguments abound about the future of education, the rank and file teachers jump into their political slots for the election year, millionaires and billionaires covertly endorse the candidates malleable enough to shift their well intentioned opinions to right of center ones, and the apolitical stand to the side nesting into educational technology and other cursory vernacular. With so few that voice their opinions at this high level of frankness and transparency, Vilson can live with the snippy comebacks, the tokenism of inclusion (or the ignorance of exclusion) from top lists and acknowledgments, the general lack of positivity amongst colleagues, and the covert hate thrown in his direction by colleagues who don’t get it. Amongst friends, he rarely mentions these things. Just don’t remind him of what I just reminded you.

“I don’t give a [expletive] what you say,” Vilson told me yesterday. “If I go out there and write a nice story where no one shares it or comments, people say, ‘Vilson choked, or Vilson is x for whatever the [expletive] in critical situations.’ Well, [expletive] you!”

“Because I don’t write for your f**king approval. I write for my own love and enjoyment of the blog. And to tell the story that no one else has the cojones to tell. Most of the time, when people feel the pressure, they’re worried about what others might say about them, or do to them. I don’t have that fear, and it enables me to forget bad pieces and write harder and write about my life so candidly.”

Deep down, Vilson does recognize it. Not because the side commentary weighs him down, but because it’s the heat under his palms. Compared to his contemporaries, he doesn’t write as much in his eponymous blog as others do, but he averages enough words in a post to compensate and then some. Seven years he’s been asked to do his job at a high level, and seven years he’s grown into the professional we know today, out of sheer hard work, listening more than he’s said, and enough resolve to fight through the toughest moments in his career. He doesn’t think he’s above reproach, but nine times out of ten, he’s able to brush the dirt off his proverbial shoulder.

“And maybe that’s what separates me from a lot of people: I can laugh at myself when people think I’m doing nothing, whereas most people might feel really insecure or nervous about the next one, or pissed off and hold that anger for the next list or whatever have you. I can find the entertainment and humor in it.”

Let me write, Vilson seems to say. Piss me off, don’t include people of color in your circles. Speak ill of kids you’re supposed to care about, and he jumps right into the melee. Tell him he’s not a classroom teacher and the next rhyme he writes might be about you. He prefers discussions that get fiery without getting personal, factual without getting tedious, rhythmic without getting argumentative. He says he laughs when he lets others have the last word because he’ll wait long enough for the truth to reveal itself.

“The fallout from disagreement is always something that makes some writers hesitant,” Vilson said. “They’re thinking about their legacies, their reputations, their connections  to high-profile people, and often, their agendas.”

Anyway, f**k them. No hesitancy here. No fear of the miss. It is a liberating feeling, and it’s where he forever wants to live.

Jose, who heavily borrowed from Adrian Wojnarowski for this satirical piece …


The 5-Minute Break

April 23, 2012 Jose

Last week, New York State Education Commission decided to give students a mandated 5-minute break in the first book of the English-Language Arts test. When I read about it, I laughed for reasons I rather expand on after the math test. However, I did receive a tape with some recorded dialogue from the closed room […]

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You Have No Idea What To Count, So Shut Up

January 1, 2012 Mr. Vilson

Ira Socol, the unabashed scholar he is, dropped my first favorite quote of 2012 in his meme on December 30th: Things I don’t want to hear in 2012: (3) “Accountability” – you have no idea what to count, so shut up. Gospel. I almost fell on my face laughing. How did he jump in my […]

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Having Your Cake and Eating It Too, Workshop Model Style

October 22, 2007

After an intense review of the test that my kids bombed, and running around the school trying to get the school ready for Penny Harvest, I had a nice lunch with my fellow teachers, and we were discussing, amongst other things, the crazy Boston Red Sox vs. Cleveland Indians game, why Yankees’ fans carry their […]

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