Teachers Teach and Do The World Good [Why We Write Series]

Jose Vilson Education, Resources


My lunch period usually consists of a walk around the way with a strawberry-banana-mango protein shake and a baked empanada, enough to hold me over until five o’clock dinner, usually uninterrupted by the passersby, especially not a former student yelling my name for the entire neighborhood to hear.

“Oh my God, is that who I think it is?”

I push my Kangol a little lower, smile quietly, and keep walking, fully expecting to remain anti-social for my “duty-free” break.

I didn’t. He runs over and says, “Mr. VILSON!” and throws his long arms around me.

“What’s going on?!”

He’s always been a taller, lanky kid. I just didn’t realize that, at some point, he’d grow taller and have more facial hair. We all kinda want our kids to stay exactly the same as when we taught them. Rarely happens, but at least we get to watch in amazement as they went from feigning maturity to rooting themselves in it.

“Nothing much, just finished my first year in college. Things are going OK with everything …”

I’m already distracted by this idea that I at least helped one kid on the path to academic success. Bodes well for the kids I have now. I could barely quote the rest of his successes. His health. His pending marriage to his boyfriend / fiancee (he doesn’t believe in titles). His growth. His growth. His growth.

“How are things with you, Mr. Vilson?”

“They’re fine. All about that math.”

You know, I rarely veer from my script. It keeps me grounded.

“Well, as always it was a pleasure. Take care.”

This kid just made my day.

Teachers often need to find ways to re-energize and reinvigorate themselves, whether through professional development meetings or great discussions with their colleagues from different schools. What often gets lost in the midst of running forward is that we ought to keep one eye to the past. Sometimes, when that past revisits us and we glean a different perspective on the effects we have had on the people under our charge.

While teacher morale in this country has worsened, locally, teachers are still vested with the charge of helping students pave their own way towards positive and fruitful successes, no matter their station in life. Today, three of my former students recognized me on the street, the first of whom I described above. The second had errands to run with his mother, but assured me he went to college.

The third just got out of jail, and just started his GED program. The fact that he came up to me and admitted as such means more than any lie he might have cooked up. The best of us often act as pillars for those children, gurus in a time with so few role models for good, beacons of light even at our most imperfect.

Walking back into my school building, I just nodded to a beat, and rapped “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 …”

Mr. Vilson, who considers himself lucky often …