The Beautiful Teacher Struggle

Jose Vilson Education, Jose

My feet on the ground actions are simple-not-easy. For the last three weeks sans EduCon weekend, I spent every “free” period plus lunch, after-school, and my birthday weekend grading papers. It’s the type of paper streak that makes non-teachers go from “Your job is so easy, plus you have summers and religious holidays off” to “You’re a saint, I don’t know how you deal with it.” It made writing for blogs and leisure seem like a thing I used to do in my fledgling past. It made hanging out with me perhaps intolerable because of my intolerance towards schooling and the disconnect between my own ideology and things I’ve asked to compromise on so I can stay in the classroom.

It’s like, stop it already.

Some people still think the only valid activism is the one on the streets when there’s clearly a battle over the mind as well. All of these talking points – growth mindset, Common Core, grit and resilience – speak to how we’re creating policy over the newest brainwave, not just constructs of the body. As a teacher, I still see achievement bastardized through banking methods, as if unzipping students’ skulls means the same thing as embracing knowledge in full.

I’m not interested in dumping known ideas into students for the sake of passing an exam that happens for a few, gruesome hours. I’m not interested in propping oneself up as an expert on getting students’ minds reformed under these bubbles because it made people feel better about educational inequity. I’m not interesting in selling our students down the river because college and career ready won’t help them when bosses won’t hire and colleges create crushing debt. I’m not interested in teaching like a champion if the only person that wins is me.

I’m interested in students seeing themselves as capable, as questioners, as owners of their own minds.

Social justice isn’t just having a face of color against the backdrop of strong-looking words yet irresponsible pedagogy. It’s the idea that, as an educator, I have to approach any and all material as if I’m letting it go. I’m of the opinion that I must get better as a teacher, not simply as a beacon of the teaching profession, but because my students depend on it.

And so do yours. That’s my beautiful struggle. You be radical your way, I’ll be mine.