We’re In The Business of Kicking Ass and Taking Names, Too

Jose Vilson Education, Jose


Writer’s Note: I don’t usually do this because this situation is so recent that someone could hypothetically come up in this blog and say that I’m reporting things I shouldn’t. But fuck it. I’ll shoot them a beer at happy hour.

I‘m a strong advocate for teaching teachers about professional dialogue and word usage. Everything we say and do has to be intentional, even our mistakes, and the more intentional and professional we get about our practice, the better teachers we become. This nonsense about test emphasis means nothing if we lose the implications of the core reason for wanting to improve schools: the kids.

One of my major projects, whether anyone realizes it or not, has been to change the dialogue amongst my colleagues in our school from labeling based on state label to naming characteristics of the children. The difference between the two is simple: we’re not in the business of label the kid as an indictment of the kid, we’re in the business of finding out about the student to ensure that the child gets an equitable education despite (or because of) these labels.

For instance, the 8th grade math team recently developed a quarter test based on percents, exponents, and a little on algebraic manipulation. We all chose questions from various sources, put them together in a structure we hope to keep using in the future. After editing some design parts, I gave the team back the test in draft f0rm. Everyone had a look at it and loved it.

That is, except one person who thought she’d try to test my skills (Teacher A). That’s cool. You’d think she had gotten the memo about the crazy math coach, but fair enough.

She said, “Look at this question right here. Don’t you think this question is a bit hard to read?” I listened. “Because I don’t know about you and Teacher Q over here, since you may teacher better classes …” I squinted my eyes slightly. “But me and Teacher W over here have the kids downstairs [self-contained], right? and …”

Trust me when I say clenching my lips was the best thing I could have done in that situation. But instead, I responded professionally, “You do know I teach with Teacher K in a CTT (collaborative team teaching) situation, right? So I have kids who may have similar deficiencies as yours. That’s first. Secondly, there are all types of kids all over, but we still need to keep our standards high not only to see how well they’ve learned but how we as teachers need to move forward …”

Before I could even finish, Teacher W, who’s grown so much with me over the past year and change, said, “I know I teach special ed kids, but if anything, I want to make this test harder because they can’t fall for the tricks in the problems. They have to learn the material like everyone else; I just gotta modify it a little bit for them.” She went off. The table shook from the fist pump I did under the table, but I kept a straight face.

Suddenly, Teacher A wanted to make it harder than everyone else originally planned. I vetoed as did everyone else, but the point was made. We’re not settling for less than great. If we as a group decide this is what’s best for our students, then there it is. We make the curriculum. We set the trend. We have goals and foci. Furthermore, if you put 30 students in front of us, we’re going to put them at the forefront of our agenda. We may have different ways of approaching the goal, but the agenda is the same.

To win, because they deserve it. Even if they d0n’t know it yet.

Jose, who laughs when people use the word “intentful …”