Jose Vilson: Looking Out (c) 2008 Tafari K. Stevenson-Howard

The Life and Times of Jose Vilson, Vol. 2

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Jose Vilson: Looking Out (c) 2008 Tafari K. Stevenson-Howard

Jose Vilson: Looking Out (c) 2008 Tafari K. Stevenson-Howard

I started off this year the same way I started off last year: reflective, and humbled. My first entry for 2008 was an errors and omissions post, just to let people know that, yes, even I make mistakes (::flicks imaginary hair from his face like a pseudostar::). More importantly, though, my recap stands as a testament to my self-discovery. Enjoy the ride.

By The Seasons: A Recap of Some Events from 2008

Eli Manning at Champions Parade

Eli Manning at Champions Parade

In the early winter, I loved Charlie Wilson’s War and The Great Debaters, entered “civil disobedience” into my vocabulary, completely hated Cloverfield, celebrated my life’s span passing a little more than a quarter-century, rewrote my whole blogging history and my own manifesto for the world to see, rediscovered my love for Freecell, saw my almost-brother Andy go to Korea to teach, watched puppets fornicating on stage via Avenue Q, watched big blue monstrosities gentrify my neighborhood, ran excitedly around my TV as the other Big Blue Monsters a.k.a. the New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots, met Dwayne Wade, Cee-Lo, and Sway, still had Graduation by Kanye West on full rotation, watched Bear Stearns collapse like a sign of the economic apocalypse, and went to Miami to visit my now much-healthier father (thanks still to everyone for their prayers and well wishes).

Jose Vilson and Malcolm Gladwell, NCTM

Jose Vilson and Malcolm Gladwell, NCTM

In the spring, I read my poetry aloud to the 6th graders in my class, actually liked Discipline by Janet, heard “Us Placers” by CRS (Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, and Pharrell Williams) featuring Thom Yorke and wondered what was possible for music in general, started writing my book, impersonated Biggie Smalls, met and heard Malcolm Gladwell speak in Salt Lake City, UT, where I augmented my teaching at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Conference, nodded at Isiah Thomas’ firing from the New York Knicks, felt Sean Bell’s fury sweep the city, went to Washington, DC, where President Bush made jokes at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner while my girlfriend and I slept upstairs, loved Lupe Fiasco’s “Superstar” as a theme song for my homeroom kids’ intramural basketball championship team, caught Kanye, Lupe Fiasco, NERD, and Rihanna at the Glow in the Dark Tour with some not-so-funny brownies, blasted Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” after watching Robert Downey Jr. rock my imagination, and braced myself for my own journey through time …

Yankee Stadium Gang

Yankee Stadium Gang

In the summer, I took my students to the newly opened Sports Museum of America, and on a tour of Yankee Stadium (for some, their first time ever, and now, their last), opened up about my fandom of Kobe Bryant, read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell and Why Are All The Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria? by Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, joined that little phenomenon Twitter, invested time in getting my whole blogosphere to howl (and that you all did), dropped my jaw at the death of George Carlin, had a good time in Dominican Republic, saw Juan Luis Guerra y la 440 in Madison Square Garden and Chuck Mangione at the Blue Note, thus knocking off 2 things from my bucket list, counted along with Feist in “1, 2, 3, 4,” and whooooooa, The Dark Knight instantly shot up my favorite movies list (especially after the 3rd time), dropped my jaw watching Michael Phelps and the rest of Team USA kill it in Beijing, China, while slowly fuming that protesters were getting silenced in the most life-threatening ways, saw the Statue of Liberty up close for the first time in my life, and let go of some of that said liberty when I got ready for the next 180 days of teaching.

Watchmen Cover

Watchmen Cover

In the fall, things fell into an awkward place as my mentor / friend left to another school, read The Watchmen after seeing that first fantastic preview, dug The Smashing Pumpkins, The White Stripes, The Ramones, Garbage, and Ghostface Killah all over again, redid my website in that book’s theme, became hypnotized with Salvador Dali again, reunited with my Syracuse University alum once more at Syracuse, NY, started off the school year with the appropriately named “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay, rebuilt the Latino Alumni Network of Syracuse University group with that new vigor, missed my godson Josiah’s first birthday, but witnessed my good friend Indira (who was part of last year’s recap) give birth to Amethyst Fé (a girl – *** side note: this is one of the few predictions in which I was right and she was wrong, otherwise she tends to be right about everything, but just in case, told you so, nah nah nah nah nah ***), realized that the Yankees would definitely not see the playoffs as Yankee Stadium patiently awaits its eminent destruction, jammed to John Legend’s “Maxine” and Asher Roth’s Green House Effect Mixtape, stood close to the front row for Janet Jackson (and knocking off another item off my bucket list), updated the look around here again using Thesis (and others soon followed), and became one of the millions (AND MILLIONS!) of Barack’s fans

In the last month, I was enthralled by Sean Penn’s portrayal of Harvey Milk in Milk, became fascinated with “Massage Situation” by Flying Lotus, reunited with my Nativity (middle school) alum (and won tickets to In The Heights), saw Just Blaze around my way after playing a mean game of pool last night, and was once more overwhelmed with the joy of Christmas.

The 5 Themes of 2008

5. Politics: “Swagger Like Us” by T.I. featuring Kanye West, Jay-Z, and Lil’ Wayne

Barack Obama Brushes the Dirt off Shoulder

Barack Obama Brushes the Dirt off Shoulder

I couldn’t avoid politics anywhere I went. This was by far the most exciting and invigorating season for politics I’ve ever been a part of (tells you how old I am). Eliot Spitzer, David Paterson, Jesse Jackson, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Barack Obama. Those names will forever be sealed in this man’s mind forever. Oh right, and Dennis Kucinich (just off the fact that I finally found a politician whose closely aligned with my own politics). Whenever we thought the political news was over, something else came up. Whether it was a plumber who wasn’t really a plumber or an impersonator getting more coverage than an actual vice presidential candidate, or even a certain mayor overstepping and ignoring a twice-mandated policy for only two terms and thus acting as Lord of New York, I know I probably won’t ever see another year like this. It also inspired the activist in me once again. After Al Gore lost in 2000 (and subsequently won the Nobel Peace Prize), I thought every vote I put up would count for nothing. Barack, despite his follies, made me believe again, and for that, I have a profound respect.

4. Death: “The Beginning is the End is the Beginning” by The Smashing Pumpkins

This was also an unprecedented year in the amount of life and death situations I’ve been involved in. The year started well enough with my father recuperating well from last year’s scare. Then, it went downhill from there. I’ve had my little cousin Ana Patricia (who was infamously incinerated by her father in February, and yes, it was hard holding back about that), my other cousin’s mom, my own cousin Rich, and one of the great teachers of my building, Mr. N, die as well, all very differently, but all as harrowing. I’ve been to the hospitals more times than I can count: for myself, my mom, and my girlfriend’s family. It felt like I could have shacked up in a hospital and I’d sleep just as well, or unwell. The scary part is that I never became numb to it; to the contrary, I might have become even more sensitive to it all.

3. Love: “Tu Amor Me Hace Bien (Your Love Is Good For Me)” by Marc Anthony

She’s been my most thorough supporter and critic. She’s the Michelle to my Barack. She’s been my best friend, lover, confidante, and all that jazz. When I lost confidence in my abilities, she kicked me swiftly and squarely in the pants (hurt like a motha, but I’m back on the horse, right?). Even with our issues, we’ve managed to make it through, and I plan to build on that. Sometimes I wonder how I got this lucky, but it’s something I work hard at. Her love is good for me, and maybe I’ll have more to tell you all in 2009. My Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.

2. Teaching: “Fly Like an Eagle” by Seal

Jose Vilson in Columbus Circle

Jose Vilson in Columbus Circle

While in the classroom, I made some strides as far as academic prowess and classroom management, I made the most progress in teacher leadership, putting to use the tools I have as a communicator and social intermediary to good use. I’ve been doing that since I was a newbie, but this year, I felt like I took that role by the neck. After all that battling, it actually feels like my opinion matters, and that’s so important in any environment that’s looking to improve. I’ve become an example of what teachers can do when they’ve been given a voice in the happenings at the school. Granted, I’m far from the only one who has input, but I consider myself a prominent voice.

1. Success: “All These Things That I’ve Done” by The Killers

Yes, I latched onto this song when the Nike Olympic commercial came on. And it’s fitting because most of this year’s successes came through people seeking me out and the blessings I’ve received rather than me seeking it out. I became part of the Teacher Leaders Network (and went to Raleigh-Durham, NC) thanks in large part to John Holland. I was featured in Time Out New York because someone was searching for “Time Out New York 40″ on Google’s Blogsearch and found my mock interview. I had the privilege of restarting the Latino Alumni Network of Syracuse University in large part because of Francisco Nuñez ’03, who simply asked, “What are you guys doing now?” I was extra motivated because of Debbie Mercado ’83, whose “not just participants but investors” line propelled our whole team into a movement bigger than us.

My first real guest post came courtesy of Nezua a.k.a. The Unapologetic Mexican, (my blogger of the year) who I ran into courtesy of Twitter really. My aforementioned “Howl” post came courtesy of Taylor the Teacher, who was inspired by my taglines at the end of my posts and threw it my way. My most popular post, “All I Ever Had …” came as a result of a situation with Bygbaby (the latest photographer to bless me with his skills) in which he was called an anti-Semite for no apparent reason. The 1400 or so friends on Facebook, 476 followers on Twitter, 164 readers here, 2000+ friends on MySpace, the random e-mails from burgeoning young teachers, bloggers, and teacher-bloggers, the people who stopped me on the street, in the bars, or online to say they loved my work, the people who dropped by NYC and brought your flavor to this side of town, the props from the most random of folk like Jeff Pearlman, Karrine Steffans, Liza Sabater, Guy Kawasaki, and Danyel Smith amongst a host of others make me realize just how important you, yes you, are. Thank you all, really. There isn’t enough space to thank you all, really.

The Killers' Brandon Flowers

The Killers' Brandon Flowers

… Over and out, last call for sin
While everyone’s lost, the battle is won
With all these things that I’ve done
All these things that I’ve done
If you can hold on
If you can hold on …

Song: The Killers, “All These Things That I’ve Done”

Jose, who loves it when 4,036,081 people can take the square root of their population and celebrate radically with me …

p.s. Guess how many words there are in this post?

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.

Comments 15

  1. Crystal

    YOU KNOW THIS IS SOOOOO STOLEN RIGHT (remember my introduction on Xanga lol) I miss you Sr. Jose

    -C. Burks “because she has the biggest booty in the world” <— lmao

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  2. Brooke

    this was a great read! your site looks great, makes me wanna get my site together! love it! Nothing but blessings in ’09 for you and yours.

  3. Vanessa Vilson

    Just when I think you’ve topped my expectations, you hit me with another blog that far exceeds anything I could expect. This is a great one primo! There was some good in ’08 but the death of my mom outweighed it. Hopefully in ’09 my heart will continue to heal. I wish us both continued health, love, happiness, and success. I raise my Ace of Spade champagne glass to you. This is an internet toast! L’Chaim! Love you!

  4. liza

    awww! it’s me just me who is important? awww!

    no, but seriously, you always make me remember how many of you we need in our schools. so good to know you’re out there fighting the good fight.

    mad props!

    y feliz año nuevo :)

  5. Tafari

    Wow, I had no idea that I sparked one of your hottest posts for 2008. I guess I am happy to know that my drama worked out for someone; for real.

    I actually almost forgot about this event until you mentioned the other day over our late lunch. LOL

    My oh my, what a year of life can make one disremember.

    Tafari

  6. Pingback: Planet Earth « rhinosplode

  7. Angela

    Congrats on such an amazing year. Thanks for adding your perspective to edublogland. You have a unique perspective (I’m the first one to tell you that, right?) and I always enjoy reading. Happy 2009!

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    Jose

    Wow, thank you all for your gracious comments.

    Brooke, thank you for your words. These sites are always a work in progress, but I’m glad you’re enjoying your experience nonetheless.

    Mery, you got the hookup?

    Vanessa, I sympathized and in many ways empathized with your situation. Still remember that funeral, too. Nonetheless, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger right?

    liza, as always, good to hear from you, miss. We must tweet up again.

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    Jose

    Tafari, that’s what a blog is for: so we can remember those crazy memories. Now hurry along so someone can call you something else I can write about.

    Angela, your words are much appreciated. Everyday, I’m surprised by new people dropping by and making their presence felt.

    Jaded NYer, I gotta represent for my people. Not many of us online :-).

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