The Shakes, For Real

Jose Vilson Education, Jose

Mayor Mike Bloomberg of NYC with Mayor Boris Johnson of London

This afternoon, I posted the following joke on my Facebook:

If school was in session, Bloomberg wouldn’t close schools. Around lunchtime, he’d say, “Let them have shakes.”

I jest. Well, for the most part. Surprisingly, there was no announcement from our mayor on anything. NYC Educator might quip here that he’s probably having lunch somewhere in Bermuda, to which I’d laugh with my mouth agape. Then again, this earthquake business struck me in more ways than one. While I’m able to find a little levity in earth-shaking situations where no one really gets hurt, the earthquake came right after another jarring moment for me. After cleaning every crevice of my bathroom, I looked in my fiancee’s eyes and said, “I really don’t want to go back to work.”

Customary for the teacher facing the dusk of his summer, but not for me.

Frankly, it has a lot less to do with my students and more to do with adults. I maintain that I’ll always have more problems with working with adults than children. Yes, they both come with their set of issues, but there’s a key difference. With children, you can excuse them for the very reason they’re in front of us: they’re children. They’re prone to childish mistakes, childish attitudes, and childish mindsets. They aren’t always mature, always pleasant, always sparkling, always ready to learn, or always courteous. But for the next 180 periods you have them in front of you, they remain children, despite their contentions otherwise.

With adults, you expect better. Adults come with the same issues I’ve outlined for children, except you’d think that the maturity thing kicks in with age. In my job as math coach, I’m not just working with adults in the building (and for the record, I love my math department, without exception). It’s the people we have to “answer to,” “work with,” and “play nice with.” These parts of my job no one envies. The tons of hands to shake, the memorization of jargon, the distractions from the students, the distractions from the students, the distractions from the students …

I understand it’s about the kids, but it’s not about 30-60-90 for me anymore; it’s been about 750 now. Thus, yet, the farther we get away from them, the more we have to shake hands with too many others. I mean, if you really don’t care much about kids, then working with adults works well for you and you’re totally looking forward to coming into the school year. You come into the job, make a bunch of boxes with words in them that eventually does little but make someone else’s language more oblique, and assuring yourself that validation will come from the eyes of people doing the similar work I just outlined for you.

For the rest of us, who actually seek validation in the improvement of schools (and I do include some principals and central office folk here), the coming school year unnerves us. Believe it or not, there’s a secret tension there, too. As these plates shift to a new school year, I can feel the tremors from here.

For that, regrettably, I feel the shakes, and there isn’t a lesson plan in the world that can help me see otherwise.

Jose, who might post a rhyme or two on my Tumblr page. Stay tuned …