Part Two of This is Not a Test starts out with Vilson’s rejection by Teach for America. In fact, he struggled to find any sort of job for a while. And this is where Vilson shows perseverance and instead of giving up on his dream of teaching, he finds another route to become certified to teach. I believe that this is the part of Vilson’s life that lends him the most credibility with students of color and supports his philosophy that we need more teachers that look like their students. His serving of humble pie gives him a life experience that he can share with his students when they are struggling and ready to give up. His humble pie can be shared with his students so that they can see that he never gave up on himself so they shouldn’t either.
His first year of teaching was very difficult (as it is for most first year teachers). However, he found his own way to reach the students and he taught them a lot more than math. He talks about other experiences that he had teaching his first few years—drinking socially, explaining to students why they shouldn’t use the N-word, hearing about one of his students being shot in a gang-related incident, and dealing with students whose home lives were missing a caring adult. Through all of these experiences, he uses them to grow as a teacher and offers advice to the readers on how to deal with the socio-emotional part of teaching. The part that for most teachers is the hardest.
1. Get that respect.
2. Don’t try to change them, try to know them.
3. Show up to things sporadically.
4. Talk to them.
5. Humble yourself.
6. Celebrate and accentuate the positive.
What I love most about this list is that it contains all of the things that my alumni who just completed their first year of teaching tell the pre-service teachers. I think that Vilson has this list right! I also think that his list should probably be shared with all adults so they can better deal with their own children and with their colleagues.
The last section of Part Two that I am discussing in this blog is how Vilson uses his blog and his writing to share ideas, to cope with teaching, and to ask the hard questions. This is only my second blog post, but I have been inspired to blog by math educators like Vilson. Blogging is a great way to express yourself and share ideas with others. The part that is hard is to put yourself out there. Does anyone care what about what I have to say? Will anyone read it? At some point, you have to take the leap—not for others but for yourself.
Of Vilson’s six suggestions in this section of the book, which one is the hardest to do? Which one is the easiest?