malcolm_x

Teaching: By Any Means Necessary

Jose 7 Comments

Malcolm X

This is the first guest post on my site, The Jose Vilson. Here, I’d like to show a little shine to some of my more prolific commenters and readers who may not get the recognition for being the writers and thought-provokers in my circle. Without any further adieu, I present Luz.

I have sat in countless meetings these past nine years as an educator. The topics have ranged from the new state regulations for our schools, the [NYC] Chancellor’s new policies, the curriculum which will solve all our problems, school culture, classroom management, discipline problems, and of course the bitching and gripping sessions, which never seem to astound me. In all said meetings, one of the things I find the most disturbing is the lack of reflection which exists among my colleagues and the administration officials. Questions are posed and issues are brought forward yet some of the on-going responses have become the following:

  • “I can’t do this in my classroom because of the pacing calendar.”
  • “These kids don’t have any basic skills.”
  • “I don’t have support from the administration.”
  • “I don’t have materials.”
  • Due to the budget cuts, I don’t have enough supplies.”

I am not saying that the statements above are not valid because they are and sometimes have a tremendous impact in our everyday reality in the classrooms. But the unanswered question which I not only formulate but articulate is,

How can I provide my students a quality education in spite of all the obstacles we face in our schools?”

When I share my thinking with others, I often wish I could videotape the facial expressions and the commentaries which emerge from my respective colleagues. It’s as if I haven’t read or comprehended the unspoken teacher manual for many, “This is How Things Are, So Don’t Go and Try to Change Them.” I find it extremely disturbing to hear in a group full of professionals whom are educated and minimally possess a master’s degree, how the system is set up for our kids to fail. Since we already know that this might be the hidden agenda, why don’t we take this knowledge and flip the script? Why should we be pawns in this game of give and take, especially when many of us profess to “love teaching?” Do we really?

Or has it become easy to be part of a system which has so many flaws and allots for the incompetent to get paid while reading a newspaper, have paid summer months off, and protect them from being fired. How does one really get fired from the NYCBOE? Do teachers get fired if they don’t write lesson plans? Do teachers get fired if they use the same lessons they have taught for the past ten years? Do teachers get fired for having low expectations for their students? Do teachers get fired for being prejudiced towards students due to their socio-economic class stature? Do teachers get fired for arriving late to class every day? Do teachers get fired for drinking on the job?

It is very difficult to be part of meetings in which I feel nothing gets accomplished because many of my colleagues believe that this time is needed for a bitch fest. I agree that we need to share and vent our frustrations because God knows that our families and loved ones are tired of hearing the stories. Who else can better understand and sympathize with our plight? Only a teacher can fully understand the nuances of our careers. When do we look at each other and actually bring honesty into the conversation? Almost rarely. After all how many of us feel comfortable asking a teacher with less experience to share some of the innovative ideas in her/his classroom? How many of us admit that we struggle with the different components of our lesson planning and/or execution of it? How many of us accept and admit that our lessons are not differentiated for the learners in our classrooms? How many of us seek alternative professional development training to enhance our instruction? How many of us reflect on our practice and are honest about what works and what doesn’t ?

Our students are diverse in many ways. We cannot measure our students in the same manner the state does because we actually have to incorporate the human factor which they do not. Therefore I struggle when I hear my colleagues claiming to love and give their students the best of themselves while the expectations they have for them are low. There are circumstances outside of the school which affect our students’ learning and motivation. Do we pity these students or teach them how to be resilient and fight back? Our students should not be settling to just get by and/or barely pass in our respective classes. They should be encouraged to step forward and expect more of themselves. When we say that we care about students, our actions will back up this blanket statement. Our actions will exemplify our commitment to their educational success because we will not tolerate excuses. The goal is for our students to modify their thinking from being a passive learner to an active learner.

When do we, as educators, change our thinking from being a victim to being a survivor in this professional realm? We don’t have the luxury of always finding excuses as to why things cannot get accomplished. Our task is to teach “by any means necessary.”

luz, who’s as gangsta in real life as she is in writing.

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Jose VilsonTeaching: By Any Means Necessary

Comments 7

  1. Hugh O'Donnell

    “When do we, as educators, change our thinking from being a victim to being a survivor in this professional realm? We don’t have the luxury of always finding excuses as to why things cannot get accomplished. Our task is to teach ‘by any means necessary.’ ”

    Luz, I’m with you, but I’d go farther, and ask teachers to lead, not just survive.

    You and Jose are two great examples of education leadership. Keep spreading the word and the encouragement.

    If the pace of change is proportionate to the size of your bureaucracy, NYC Schools, you have a really big job ahead. But, and forgive my use of jargon, if you continue to build the buzz, you will reach critical mass, and change WILL happen, however gradually.

    BTW, my paternal grandmother, Agnes O’Donnell, taught sixth grade for 41 years at PS 199 in Brooklyn. My Dad taught at St. John’s Prep, then Levittown, NY, then Hillsboro, Oregon for 32 years. I started teaching at age 30 in 1975, and retired in 2003, going to the Hillsboro board of ed with the some of the goals you are looking to achieve.

    I’ve made progress. We are on the threshold of engaging the last frontier of education reform…standards-based grading and risk-free, collegial professional development.

    Excelsior.

    Hugh O’Donnells last blog post..What To Do When the Press Doesn’t Do Their Job

  2. Post
    Author
    Jose

    Thanks for the compliment Hugh. As teacher leaders, it does become incumbent on us to take some tasks by the horns and make it happen. P.S. – I must say, you’ve definitely become comfortable with uniting your off- and on-line personalities. Great to see.

  3. Tracy Rosen

    I agree Hugh, we need to lead – for ourselves, our students, our colleagues, and even our administration at times. Because if we don’t, who will.

    “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?” Rabbi Hillel

    By any means necessary?
    No.
    By any means human.

    Tracy Rosens last blog post..How is this normal?

  4. pre_k

    all i am going to say that this is the most honest reflection of teachers and the education system i have seen in a good minute. personally i get tired of whoa is me teachers who are not hacking it. i get tired of teachers talking about how they love their students but yet i have never seen them walk out over content and curriculum but i have seen them strike over percentage points on annual raises. lets be real about it. a lot of people become teachers not because they love it or even care about the kids but because it is one of the most secure jobs in this country, period. while there is a lot more to be said about education policy and things of the sort i will say that your level of reflecti0n on these issues is definitely a starting point. piece and blessings.

  5. Pingback: Carnival of Education, Transition Team Edition at The Core Knowledge Blog

  6. Mister Teacher

    Thanks for posting this. Yes, there are a lot of ways that our districts seem to want to tie our hands (and feet) behind our backs. But we’ve just got to fight through it and do what’s best for the kids.
    Though teachers CAN get fired for drinking on the job — happened down here in TX a couple of months ago. Though falsifying social security numbers and under budgeting don’t seem to merit as much punishment…

    Mister Teachers last blog post..Carnival of Symmetrical Democracy

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