year in review

When I posted my top ten blogs from 2013, Bill Fitzgerald wondered if these were also my favorites. Silly. Of course not. I love almost all my posts. Hopefully so do you. In case you didn’t, though, I sifted through each post and created a list of the ones that I loved that didn’t make it on the previous list. Here they are:

  1. Invisibility and People of Color in Education Reform
  2. Embracing The Elephant (Race and Education Reform)
  3. Stop and Frisk These Test Scores
  4. Kendrick Lamar’s Control (Happy Birthday, Hip-Hop)
  5. Hear Women Speak On Women (A Small Rejoinder To My Own Privilege)
  6. On Almost Meeting Jonah Edelman
  7. Born To Do This Shit (Personal Legends and Teaching)
  8. Are Common Core Arguments Too Coddled? OMGLOL Yes.
  9. Changing The Language From Anti-Testing To Pro-Whole Child
  10. How I Might Have Intro’d The Bammy Awards

I whittled this list down to ten posts. Admittedly, #6, #8, and #10 were my attempts at humor, but the rest try to connect the dots about different discussions we’ve all had. In any case, enjoy and let me know what you think of this list.


P.S. – I left off a few because, well, I’m using them in my book.


George Foreman vs. Muhammad Ali

George Foreman vs. Muhammad Ali

Dear reader,

The reason I haven’t spoken about Kanye West all year is because, in some ways, I’ve occupied a similar space that he does in education discussion. I don’t mean marrying Kim Kardashian, either.

Here’s the list of my top ten posts according to how many views I got:

  1. Chris Christie and Why Teaching Intersects With Women’s Rights
  2. I’m Diane Ravitch and I’m Tired of Your Shit (A Review of Reign of Error)
  3. First They Came For Urban Black and Latino Moms (For Arne Duncan)
  4. Excuse Me, Your Privilege Is Showing (White Privilege in Ed Reform)
  5. An Open Letter From The Trenches [To Education Activists, Friends, and Haters]
  6. Quvenzhané Wallis, Matthew McConaughey, and How We See Our Children of Color
  7. Boredom, Thy Name Is Charlotte Danielson (On Rubrics and Misuse)
  8. If You’re Teaching Black History Month This Way, Please Stop
  9. The Revisionist’s Martin Luther King Jr., “I Have A Dream For Most Of Us”
  10. No One Puts Algebra 2 In A Corner (Math For All Kids)

This year, I dedicated myself to more honest writing, especially around issues of race and equity, and it shows. Seven of my top ten posts deal, at least implicitly with racial justice, four of these deal with women’s rights, and eight of these dealt with educational equity.

Yet, these all have something in common, too: each of them have had someone say, “Well, actually …”

The “Well, actually” crowd loves when you’re controversial in their lane. You agree with everything we have to say? Please walk right in. Have a seat. Jump on our lists. Sit on our board. Have these awards. I’ll follow everything you do for more than a day. Whatever you do, though, please don’t call out anyone or anything that we like because we don’t know what to do with valid counterpoints, especially as it pertains to race and class.

Most of this year’s counterarguments to my pieces can be summed up in this next paragraph:

Stop picking on Grant Wiggins and Nicholson Baker, Vilson. You didn’t donate to the Opt Out movement even though I know for a fact you’ve taught in the classroom longer than I have, so you’re not a real activist, Vilson. I’m a white educator in a charter school, and I care about my Black kids, so I have no idea what you’re talking about, Vilson. It’s not like we’re talking about Hitler here, Vilson. The Onion was just making a joke about Quvenzhane, and you’re taking things too seriously, Vilson. I’ll wait until you stop talking about race and gender to engage with you, Vilson, since I obviously don’t have good arguments. You don’t have a doctorate, so how dare you speak about teaching to us, Vilson! Your book review won’t be as funny or entertaining as such-and-such, Vilson. 

No. I just want a chance to show I belong in the same sentence as the favorites. If not, then I’ll still be here creating my own sentences with my people.

As Errol Smith, executive director of the Bammy Awards came to find out, though, I’m not here for a personal victory, but for everyone’s victory. Nobody wins when a whole segment of highly qualified individuals is excluded on the basis of gender, race, or any other category. Ask baseball pre- Jackie Robinson. What’s more, even after the kerfuffle between Errol and I, even after the awards were cancelled until further notice, I still felt a little pride when I heard Jesse Hagopian, one of the organizers of the Seattle MAP boycott, won two of the big awards at their last event, not because I think Jesse is somehow a better human being than everyone else, but because his brilliant work won’t get recognized if the right people don’t back him up.

The conundrum is, as has always been, do you want to be popular or do you want to do what’s right for the unnamed, the people without the platform?

In some ways, I’m glad I chose the latter and still found an answer to the former. I’m blessed that so many of you HAVE supported my work. From the people who consistently shared my work and pre-ordered my book to the folk who thought enough of me to contribute to their publications, speak at their functions, and invite me in, knowing I won’t hold back on the things that matter most. The top ten posts of the year demonstrate the power of many, that, in spite of the “Well, actually” crowd, I have hundreds of you who insist that I keep writing, especially during my lowest points of the year.

The “Well, actually” crowd might look elsewhere, but you’ve stuck through. That matters more than you know.

Muhammad Ali once said, “I know where I’m going and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want” in response to questions about his beliefs. I’m not as free as I want to be yet; I’m employed by the same system that I critique. This means I’m still the underdog because I choose to write as I do. Well, actually, you’re the motivator, so thank you. Hopefully, in 2014, I’ll still have your support.

If not, I’m running up on stage and telling everyone how wrong they were. Swiftly.

Bumaye, Jose

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On the first day of 2012, I waited for the birth of my son, Alejandro. We tried everything to hasten the process: long walks, hot spicy foods, and … well, I’d rather not say here. Just know that he knew his parents loved each other very much. I had already prepared my vocals for the long nights singing him to sleep, and my body for a serious lack of sleep. Yet, nothing would prepare me for Three Kings Day, the actual last day of Christmas. No frankincense, no gold, no myrrh. Just an Epiphany that I had to live for a whole ‘nother person. So I had to become a better me.

In the earlier winter, the funniest commercial (and possibly creepiest) of the year played while I changed my son’s poopy diaper (Eww. Seriously? So gross.) The New York Giants won the championship in front of his eyes, the second time I started the year off with such such a chip, but the Victory came with my son, salsa dancing when he touched down in my arms. Soul Train‘s Don Cornelius passed and Trayvon Martin found his way on the wrong end of a gun, but the worst was yet to come at the end of the year. The Knicks’ Jeremy Lin lit up the Garden, which serves as one of the first times in a while New York City had reason to watch every single game for just one pseudo-rookie’s career. In February, I got nervous about the math state test because I missed two whole weeks of school with my kids, and my teacher evaluation report was made public, which put me in a bigger bind than necessary. How do you achieve success at success at success when reputable papers like the New York Times keep coming at your job?

Spring called. So did CNN. And the New York State Math Tests, against my wishes. And my first TED talk / public rap / homage to Rakim / science lesson (shout-outs to the good folk at TEDxNYED!) By May, I had celebrated four months of fatherhood. His face started forming, nervously wondering if he would look like me. Watching early Yankee games with my son after school, feeding him while watching Pardon the Interruption, and hearing him yell the words “Da da” made every afternoon special. I caught a stalker sometime in May, but people like Matt Metzger left a lasting impression of why we loved his writing voice so much in our blogs (rest in power, amigo).

IMAG1030By the time my students were ready to graduate, I was too, from a teacher leader to a teacher advocate. Netroots Nation 2012 gave me a chance to prompt Van Jones to write an essay on education, to thank Ben Jealous of the NAACP for his work around charter co-locations and NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy,  to convene with friends like Sabrina Stevens (thank you!), Martha Infante, and Karran Harper Royal to discuss the right wing’s plot against education. Sitting with stars, we all shine so brightly. Nativity Mission School, my middle school / alma mater, had a celebration for the closing of its doors, sadly. More importantly, my son gave me my first Daddy’s Day gift. Thank you.

In the summer, I hit Seattle, WA for the first time ever, NASA for the first time ever, and Orlando for the fourth time … ever. All the time on the road made me weary and out-of-touch. I started finishing up Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention (my favorite book of the year) while Frank Ocean explained to the world what his sexuality meant. Andrew Hacker caused a stir about math, which prompted me to get my math geek on, but also made me wonder if I ought to write a math book, too. In the meantime, Gabrielle Douglas kicked the Olympics in the rear, McKayla Maroney wasn’t impressed about her own performance, and Michael Phelps smoked the competition for the most gold medals ever. George Lucas put Edutopia editor Betty Ray on a three-way conference and begged her to get me on her blogging roster (or at least that’s how I tell the story), and soon, my name also became synonymous with math. I also had time to go head-to-head with Won’t Back Down actress Viola Davis and wrote an anti-rape post, my most popular to date. (Thanks, Being Liberal!)

IMAG0917Before we went back to school, my colleague and friend Ms. Waldman passed away. Shalom. Shalom.

Alejandro loved the Octonauts and The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and wouldn’t settle for anything less in the fall. I was invited to partake in a protest reading (an epic incantation from Luis Rodriguez’ banned book Running) at La Casa Azul Bookstore in El Barrio / Harlem and the American Federation of Teachers put a brotha in the front row for Education Nation, a rowdy crowd intolerant of pseudo-righteous nonsense. My colleagues at the Chicago Teachers Union, including leader Karen Lewis, drank Jonah Edelman’s milkshake and protested for the right to better working conditions … and better student learning conditions.

My interview with the Examiner was a hit, and so was Junot Diaz’ This Is How You Lose Her (my second-favorite book of the year). IMAG1175I made it to the Greatest’s Museum in Louisville while learning science from the NSTA, too. While Mitt Romney tries to flip the Big Bird to 47% of the American public, the eugenicists lauded Stuyvesant High School for excluding a people more inclined to sports and crime. I fantasized about a time when educators would get signed to multi-million dollar contracts, but I couldn’t have imagined the effects Superstorm Sandy had on our shores, our cities, our lives, our hearts.

We prayed for those devastated. Schools provided a safe house, but even that was a tenuous relationship this year.

President Barack Obama won re-election, much to the chagrin of a good five people on my Facebook friends list (and thousands of people affected by US drones onto their countries), and Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, M.A.A.D city had everyone in a mood (so don’t kill it!). By now, my son found out how his legs worked, and held tightly to the walls, the sofa, and my fingers as he cruised through the house, driving me and Luz crazy in the process. As we approached winter, the late night diaper changes and Saturday morning Handy Manny viewings only made me love him more. He was still an infant, even if his size suggested otherwise. I imagined what it would be like picking him up from school every afternoon.

Until one afternoon, about two dozen little ones and a few adults couldn’t save themselves from a seriously ill young man, another reminder that children suffer the burden of the things we don’t do for them.

mckaylamaroneyandbarackobamaWhen student activist and future educator Stephanie Rivera provided this quote on her Facebook:

One year ago I was sent to the Bishop House to meet with a dean because my self-harm and alcohol abuse made me a red-flag to the Rutgers community, I left assigned to mandated counseling. Today I was asked to meet a director at the Bishop House. I left being told I was a strong candidate for 3 fellowships due to the “committed passion I have for the public good,” and they want to see me make the mark in the world I want to. Never, in a million years, did I ever think I’d be at this point today. At the point where all my day’s energy isn’t geared towards criticizing and trying to fix everything that I found wrong with myself, but instead geared towards fixing things much, much greater than myself. It still shocks me how I can look in the mirror today and not want to smash it, or have the ability to go out with my friends and eat in public without having an anxiety attack. Never. Thank you for all of those who were there from the very beginning, and those who have come into my life and continue to make the course of recovery not only one of the most meaningful journey’s of my life, but who make it even possible to carry on.

Endless love to those who continue fighting the same fight, both for a better world and the fight inside themselves.

“We all know pain, and I think that is why we strive to make this world better. I strongly believe that what has almost killed us all is a fire that burns to keep us doing what we do. “

… it just made me wonder why I stressed out so much.

When Ms. Rivera posted her quote, I almost told myself, “What the flip is wrong with me?” This year, a girl got shot by the Taliban for trying to get an education. (Fortunately, she lives.) Chicago had 500+ murders this year alone, many of them young men of color with their own secret passions for change. Thousands of people have lost their jobs this year. Hundreds have stopped looking. The homeless blend among the hipsters in NYC, so the problem stays faceless.

All I have to do is teach, get kids and teachers to believe in themselves, and … advocate for this profession. Sounds lots easier than fighting for one’s life.

Fatherhood made me realize how amazing life was in the service of others. The world kept throwing me opportunities, and I took the best of them. Sure, other areas of my life didn’t feel as successful. Before I turned 30 this year, I would have referred to them as haters. Now in my 30s, I have to thank them, for they keep testing my mettle even as they don’t know where their journeys lead them.

The only difference between them and me is that, while neither of us know where our roads lead, mine feels good. I just got this good feeling. Yeah. I just got this feeling that I never ever ever had before, no no. This unpaved road feels like mine.

Jose, who would like to thank each and every one of you for your readership. See you soon.



I’m Beamin’ [I Get My Energy From My Inner G]

December 30, 2011 Jose

The past year has been amazing. I started off the year with the intention of becoming a more transparent and open person, leaving much of my youthful ways behind. I’m ending the year with the stark reality of fatherhood, and a sense of even higher purpose. In between, I started gathering the pieces for that […]

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Year In Review 2010: This Is It

December 31, 2010 Jose
Michael Jackson, This Is It, Rehearsal

In the last couple of years, these blogs have been exercises in thorough research and reflectiveness. Isn’t that what the end of the year should mark, anyways? A sense that we’re going to take a few hours and commemorate the last 365 days by remembering what the hell just happened and wash it away with […]

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Year-In-Review 2009: Boy, You’re Gonna Carry That Weight For a Long Time!

December 31, 2009 Jose
Young James Kirk looks at the USS Starship Enterprise

2009 may never leave me alone. We go through these crazy up-and-downs, hoping not to leave too much on the cutting room of this movie we call our lives. None of the lessons get left on the floor, though. They stick around, secretly making their way into our laments and celebrations. It’s with this that […]

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Year-In-Review 2009: Top Nine Things I Learned In 2009 [Almost Uncensored]

December 28, 2009 Jose
Dr. Manhattan, Watchmen

2009: the year I finally got more than I asked for. Ironically, I didn’t really get the plethora of gifts, trinkets, and well-wishes I used to get during these holidays, but that may have been to offset the tidal wave of lessons and presents I received from 2009 as a whole. I promise not to […]

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