Batman, The Dark Knight

Whatever They Need Me To Be

Jose 6 Comments

Batman, The Dark Knight

No, it’s not the same.

Mostly the same kids. Same subject. Same friendships. Same teachers in the building. Same madness in the beginning. Same school building. Same confusion as to what the heck students had on their heads and why they decided not to wear uniform if they’ve been to the school already. Same high hopes. Same uneasiness.

But it’s definitely not the same.

This year, I envision me taking better care of myself. For all intents and purposes, I felt almost useless for the last 2 weeks of last year due to circumstances I couldn’t control. Now, even with the recent teacher departures, I feel I’m more in control. As a teacher, I come into the classroom with an incredible swagger. I fully expect all eyes on me even when I’m not the one teaching. I expect quiet when I’m speaking. I expect a certain respect from everyone. When I write on the board, I expect students to be writing notes in back of me and nothing else. I expect quiet usually, and maybe just a little buzz while they’re working in groups. My gumption doesn’t come from anything except wanting to preemptively avoid 85% of classroom management problems from the onset.

and if I thoroughly believe in that persona, then that’s exactly what I’m going to get … and sometimes to a fault.

Even with all that pomp, I still find that the kids react to me just the opposite of what I’d expect. They welcome my presence, and even my slight passing by the classroom gets them overly excited rather than nervous and scared. :: snaps:: So much for that. I’m still getting kids running up to me, literally leaving their classes, and begging me to teach their class (I have little control over that). It’s a weird feeling, for as much as I want to maintain the “no smiling ’til Christmas” mantra, I also know that, much sooner than later, my students find out I care a lot about them.

So for the new teachers reading, please know:

Teaching is, more than anything, a living contradiction:

  • It’s a profession because I’m getting paid for it, and a calling because there’s something innate in true teachers that implant us in our students’ memory banks
  • I get to be mean and nice, sometimes within a span of five seconds
  • I’m fully expected to be ready with a lesson plan, but I’ll never truly be ready for what happens on the everyday.
  • Almost everyone knows what a teacher is and what they should look like, but I still have a hard time expounding on my experiences as one to anyone but people who work with youth in that capacity.
  • I teach math, but I’m a prolific writer, a music connoisseur, and an avid reader of historical non-fiction (usually on the radical side)
  • I’m expected to be a role model, but that suppression of some of my more unbridled habits (cursing comes to mind) makes me want to do it more when not in the view of children
  • I love being with the kids, but for my own mental health, I need a break because …
  • The energy I put into my profession is what comes out of me …

But that’s my job. I’m amorphous and omnipresent. I’m an overlord and proponent. I’m whatever my students need me to be. And that’s the way I like it.

jose, who has no idea what he’s gonna dress in tomorrow …

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 6

  1. laniza

    The title pretty much sums up what all teachers should strive for. We’re so much more than music, latin, math, english teachers, etc. We’re substitute parents, counselors, judges, jury, dictators, democratic leaders, I can go on and on. Thanks, bro, for giving us words to reflect upon.

  2. Hugh O'Donnell

    You’re pretty much nailing the complexity of teacher attitude (good teacher, that is).

    With regard to the cussing, it’s hard to maintain social distance when kids hear it. I have an “expressive moment” one time when a ninth grader shoved a sevie so hard that the sevie left his feet and plowed a furrow in the tiled hallway with his face.

    The rest of that story will be in my memoirs. ;)

    Hugh O’Donnells last blog post..The Pace of Change

  3. Tracy Rosen

    “jose, who has no idea what he’s gonna dress in tomorrow …”
    So…did you go for the cape and the mask? ;)

    and it’s a profession for many more reasons than because you get paid for it. When I was bartending I was paid for it, but it sure wasn’t my profession (though I still think it helped in some way to inform my current profession!).

    Tracy Rosens last blog post..First 2 days: the forensic report

  4. Alicia

    No smiling till Christmas seemed so crazy to me, coming in as a new teacher to the city. I realized about half way through the first day that I indeed needed to at least “try” not to smile. It’s incredibly hard, because, like you, I already care so much about my students! I’m very much so looking forward to the days that I can put a smile on my face! Good luck with the new school year!

    Alicias last blog post..A Few Interesting Moments of the Last Week

  5. Asabagna

    Interesting read! As a police officer, particularly a “Black” police officer, I find that my profession is in many ways a “living contradiction” also.

    Not to mention I am a Dark Knight fan! lol!

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