The Students Always Do That

Jose Vilson Education, Jose

Real talk: I haven’t been feeling myself lately.

We’ve had a plethora of school program changes. In sum, I ended up with me having five periods of five classes. I don’t blame anyone in my building. I do find it inappropriate to make such hefty changes in freaking December, more so for the students than for me or the adults in the building. I’m also not one to make thoughtless changes for the benefit of test scores, because if I wanted to work in a test-prep factory, I would have.

The custodians had to install a revolving door for my classroom. Or at least that’s what I imagined.

With all that in mind, I fully intended on rolling under my covers when my alarm went off a few days ago. I still found my shoes and socks on my feet, v-neck over my collared shirt, slacks rustling while I made my way to the bodega. I ask for my tostada y cafe, the usual when I have a long day. I ran into one of my newly acquired students. I see him at least twice a week, but never knew him except for his awkward maneuvers through the tight grocery lanes.

Today, he decided to turn around, wish me good morning, and say, “Mr. Vilson, your class is already one of my favorite classes.”

See? Like, it’s like people know that the more kids I get, the more I’m just gonna make do. Every time I cover a class, I find myself wondering what it’d be like to teach that specific class. With these new classes, I let them sit where they liked so I could memorize their names in two days (!), then sit them with folks they can work with. I’m catching them up in the things I already did with my other two classes. I’m getting a sense of their habits, their intelligences, their levels of participation, their misgivings.

In other words, I’m actively loving to teach in a system that’s hostile to this love.

The students always do that. They always find ways to remind me why I withstand adult-level nonsense, why I’m proud to tell everyone I teach middle school, why I don’t mind having tough conversations with students when they’re not doing well, why I stay a few minutes after-school, and why I come in 30-45 minutes early for work.

When I do, I don’t expect to get compliments with my coffee, but it’s a start.

photo c/o