teacher leaders Archives - The Jose Vilson

teacher leaders


I know there are a billion frameworks, most notably from Charlotte Danielson and Robert Marzano. I also don’t have faith in people who sell their products to districts who muck up any effort to improve the teaching profession with real research. Akin to what we do with students, Campbell’s Law comes into effect when we continually hammer in the idea that teachers should follow (narrow) checklists and rubrics to prove their effectiveness. Standards ought to be developed with a mix of vetted research and peer review, not a set of arbitrary findings.

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Dear burgeoning teacher leader,

Congratulations. You’ve been chosen / selected / promoted to a position of leadership in your school. Whether you’re an instructional coach, an assistant principal, or a lead teacher, your achievements up to this point merit applause. I hope that the benefits and challenges of the position you’re about to undertake in your current post have been outlined for you. If not, rest assured that it’s going to be hard as hell, starting with your attire and ending with your aptitude for the job. But someone needed you somewhere and so I suppose they saw something in you that the school or district needed.

Yet, if you’re coming from the classroom, I should caution you: you’re trading in intimacy for effect.

When people talk to me about the possibility of becoming an administrator, they tell me that I’m taking my talents to farther reaches, from the 30-60-90 of the classroom to a possible 300-500-800 students at a time. While this is true, the true test is finding the balance between improving the teaching quality of a school and getting to know the students this affects.

Last year, for instance, I had an easier time with teaching while in the role of math coach because I already had the core group of kids for 3 years as part of my homeroom (I begged for this, too). In those three years, I also taught the majority of the 8th grade by then, so walking into different classrooms and doing demo lessons was second-nature. Yet, It was difficult keeping up with learning how to be a math coach while ensuring that all my 8th grade students got what they needed from me.

Thus, we didn’t do as well as we could have academically with that group of students. My relationship didn’t suffer as a cause of this growth into teacher leader, but it didn’t help when I was consistently absent for random reasons.

By comparison, in my role as 2nd year math coach, I handled my responsibilities much better. I worked harder to keep up with my class’ academic needs. I visited classrooms more often. I delved deeper into curriculum and pedagogy. I even did a bit of the disciplinary and administrative matters in the building as well. On the surface, it’s been a very successful year. Yet, because of the energy needed to do all those other pieces, I didn’t devote 100% of my emotional energy to the students in my classroom and it showed. I wouldn’t want to put the blame squarely on my shoulders, but too often, I found myself detached.

It wasn’t because I wanted to be distant, but there’s only so much energy we as humans have.

When you’re strictly a classroom teacher, you can just worry about your own students. The paperwork mounts, but your part is more specialized and focused. As a teacher leader, you’re not just worried about the brains learning, but also the brains teaching, and the brains working to support those who are teaching and learning, all simultaneously. Plus, you’re asked to do this within the confines of a web of rules only meant to complicate not simply your work (here’s looking at you, Charlotte Danielson).

Once you trade in the one-room key for the master key, you’re also pulling yourself away in a way that people don’t get. The difference between an eagle and a hummingbird is not just in its size, but also its purview.

Jose, who will be seeing his students for the last time tomorrow … and wishes he had one more day …


On KRS-One and Why You Should Teach Righteously

by Jose Vilson on May 27, 2010

in Jose



On Monday, Law and Order premiered its episode about a mad teacher blogger who was ready to blow up a random NYC school for all the wrongs done to him and others like him, an episode aptly named “The Rubber Room.” Many of the stories I heard in the episode mirrored the real situations those teachers went through (and still go through) in the NYC school system. I’ll never be indignant enough to replicate the actions of the teacher blogger in the episode, but it led me to think about teacher blogging as a whole and why I blog. For more than half the episode, the blogger went by a pseudonym and only bloviating on his premeditated doomsday, never validating his profession with real accomplishments.

That’s why you, the reader, and I need to put our names to our works. In terms of Internet currency, it’s better than putting our money where our mouth is.

The most popular blogs tend to have a pseudonym that typifies the type of person the blogger is. Before I ventured into blogging under my own name, I had the comfort of hiding behind my nickname and discuss my job as I pleased … until I found out that people forwarded my posts to other people. I didn’t know where they forwarded them to, but if they ever got back to my boss, I knew I’d need a good strategy for keeping my job. I slept on this idea for a bit. Then, I woke up and thought about how much of an impact I made with my Internet colleagues and prospective teachers by speaking about my victories and frustrations with teaching.

Under a pseudonym, I was a nobody with a bunch of ideas. As Jose Vilson, I was a person anyone could look up (school and all) and verify truths and statements. Less commenters, more readers. Less cursing, more transparency. I had more credibility, and that puts more power into the things I say. Enter KRS-One:

Boogie Down Productions is made up of teachers
the lecture is conducted from the mic into the speaker
Who gets weaker? The king or the teacher
It’s not about a salary it’s all about reality
Teachers teach and do the world good
kings just rule and most are never understood
If you were to rule or govern a certain industry
All inside this room right now would be in misery
No one would get along nor sing a song
’cause everyone’d be singing for the king, am I wrong?!

- KRS-One, “My Philosophy”

No, KRS isn’t. There are two parts we should recognize with the previous lyrics. The first, of course, is that KRS-One is one of the greatest MCs of all time, but also the most contradictory. And that’s why people love him. Even on days when his opinions seem off-kilter to some, we have to respect what the man says because he’s so outspoken and lucid when it comes to his opinion. (We can extrapolate Five Percenter language as long as we’re true to the message, here.)

Secondly, his priorities align more to ours; he values the connectedness of teachers over the aloofness of rulers. Teachers push us to think critically whereas rulers push men and women to concede to their demands. That’s why it’s not about a salary, and it’s all about reality. The idea of poor righteous teachers doesn’t mean that we’re settling for less; it means that our pedagogy is inclusive of all who desperately need their voices elevated. That means you.

As I look at the edublogosphere, I see the trend leaning towards those who want to use their full names behind their blogs, even those who’ve achieved notoriety with their blogs. We have to keep putting pressure on governmental agents to include our voices in the dialogue for educational change. We have to keep writing, keep contributing to our communities, and keep our names on the front lines. When the educational boogeymen switch names but don’t switch agendas, we have to stand tall next to them holding them accountable. We may not have the money for mailings, but we have Google and Bing. We don’t have NY1 or local news stations, but we have Facebook and Twitter. We don’t have politicians in our back pockets, but we do have YouTube and Ning.

After honing that power, developing relationships with each other as a community, and investing in that power with our names, we’ll do more than get 1-sided 30 minute interviews with salesmen. We’ll be teaching. To the nation.


Thank you to Keishla for reminding me about this.

Mr. Vilson, who sites this as a resource from here on out …


Voices Of Concerned Educators: Bridging The Gap [Jovan Miles]

March 22, 2010 Jose

Public education is a bureaucrat’s wet dream.  Our school and district level leaders rarely, if ever, create policy or drive education reform. They simply carry out the will and mandates of government officials, politicians, and the loud minority who, in most cases, have never set foot in a classroom as anything other than students. Pushing […]

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