Changing The Narrative, Right From My Classroom

Tomorrow, New York City teachers go for their first day back from vacation. With no kids and two weeks to clean out their caches (well, some of us), we’ll hopefully come back refreshed and ready to take on the relentless energies of the burgeoning young minds in front of us.

Or whatever it is we choose to believe.

This year, I’ve never been as excited to hop in and do great work with my students. With three classes (a full math program in middle school), I’ll have plenty of opportunity to refine my teaching skills, get students ready for high school, and create and sharpen these amateur mathematicians. I came in a week early to get my classroom in order, scrub down desks, and organize the mounds of boxes that some of us moved from upstairs to this classroom, bopping along to Jay Z and Onyx in the interim.

Which should make everyone wonder how the hell I’m going to change the narrative right from my classroom.

That’s the thing: I haven’t figured it out, either. What I do know is that I will continue to rebuke the nonsense that comes across my plate as a teacher, starting from the data reports due to us this week (teachers, check your DOE inboxes) to the mad rush to cover everything under the sun before their big exams and everything in between. I’ll resist professional development folk trying to push their product or influence me into doing something unless they’ve done it themselves. I’ll keep my energy high throughout the year, even when students that look like mine. I’ll even continue to resist colleagues spreading negativity and nonsense around me, not because I’m better, but because we can all do better.

If I seek to change the narrative, I have to strive to be that narrative.

Because, really, I, like many other teachers, didn’t have a “summer off.” We had a summer to be ourselves, sans personal titles and last names. For me, I had a wonderful time across the country talking about my book, but, having met hundreds of teachers, I got a sense that many teachers have aspirations like mine in terms of their kids. Many of us want them to do well, many of us want to get better at our craft, many of us have a deep disdain for teacher bashing, and many of us want a fresh lens on how we approach our work in education.

While many of my colleagues have already started across the country, I start my new journey tomorrow. Time to be Mr. Vilson. Let’s do this.

photo c/o