Teacher Spotlight: A Talk with Jose Vilson

A former New York City Teaching Fellow, Vilson is a teacher and activist, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Center for Teaching Quality.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YzuRoP3_vw

This post is in partnership with University of Phoenix


Jose Vilson has been teaching math for six years in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. A former New York City Teaching Fellow, Vilson is an education activist and serves as a board member on the Board of Directors for the Center for Teaching Quality. He is also the co-author of the book Teaching 2030. To watch the extended interview with Vilson, click above for an exclusive video.

GOOD: How long have you been teaching and what type of students do you serve?

Jose Vilson: I am a sixth year math teacher at a school in Washington Heights, New York City. I’ve also been math coaching for two years. My students are predominately Latino, lower income, and especially Dominican—about 90%.

GOOD: How do you motivate students who haven’t been successful in the past?

Vilson: What seems to work well is building a relationship. One thing that I’ve always adhered to was Lisa Delpit’s theorem on how to approach students. She has this thing in [her book] Other People’s Children where she talks about when you first approach students who don’t do as well academically you want to build a relationship first. For students who don’t have that attachment to school, it’s important to build the relationship.

GOOD: How do your students, specifically your male students, respond to you as a male teacher of color?

Vilson: I would say about 85% of my students probably respond better because I am in front of them. A lot of that conversation has to come from the point of view of understanding our boys of color and being able to respond to them in a way that says, 'I’m not here to tell you that your culture is wrong, I’m just here to show you another opportunity and another path.'

GOOD: How do you manage to be creative and still have your students be successful on state tests?

Vilson: I think it’s important to keep one motto in mind: We’re not trying to teach to the test; we’re trying to teach so that when kids come to the test they’re still able to do well.

One way that I’m able to be creative is by saying, 'Let’s look at the standards and see what we’re asked to achieve during the year.' If I have fifty standards that I have to get through, I do my best to get to the best thirty and go really, really deep into those standards. I started to notice that it was better for me to cover thirty topics in-depth, than fifty in a very shallow manner. Thus, when I got to those thirty, they did really, really well and that translated to higher achievement in high school.

GOOD: What’s the biggest misconception people have about teachers?

Vilson: The biggest misconception about teachers right now is that we don’t work 24/7. As if we don’t work as hard as we should. I understand, we do get these proverbial summers off and we have these extra holidays, but often times I find myself being Mr. Vilson and not Jose. I feel like I’m on Mr. Vilson mode more often than not. If I’m not grading papers, then I’m thinking about what my next lesson plan is going to be. And if I’m not doing that, then I’ll have to start thinking about those one or two children that didn’t do well on whatever last assignment I gave. Even just walking down the street I have to be very cautious of my own public image.

GOOD: What advice would you give to new teachers?

Vilson: Go visit other teachers and go see what they’re doing. When I first started teaching, the best way for me to learn how to teach was to go see how other teacher’s taught. I probably went on a good fifty visits that first year and that really sped up the process for me learning how to teach.

GOOD: What has been your greatest challenge and greatest success so far?

Vilson: One of my biggest challenges was not being able to look at my teaching outside of the accountability systems that have been placed in front of me.

When I first started teaching, I was way too concerned with whatever the new fad was in education. We went from multiple intelligences to differentiation, and now it’s going to be the common core. I find it very revelatory how teachers, in general, haven’t been able to take charge of their own pedagogy within the classroom.

Honestly, my biggest success as a teacher has been seeing my students graduate. They get so amped up about that process that it always gets me. I’ve worked intensely with a lot of eighth graders over the last six years and I’m always, always in awe of that procedure. I can never get enough of seeing kids graduate and getting to the next level.

Read more from the GOOD Guide to Great Teaching here.

Articles
Creative Commons

National Tell a Joke Day dates back to 1944 when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was having a meeting with Vice-President, Henry Wallace. The two men were tired and depressed due to the stress caused by leading a country through world war.

During a lull in the meeting, Wallace said, "Frank, to cheer you up I have a joke I'd like to share."

"Let's have it, Henry," Roosevelt replied while ashing his cigarette.

"Why did the chicken cross the road?" Wallace asked. "Not sure," Roosevelt replied.

"To get to the other side," Wallace responded.

Roosevelt laughed so hard that the bourbon he was drinking sprayed out of his nose and onto the floor of the oval office.

RELATED: A comedian shuts down a sexist heckler who, ironically, brought his daughters to the show

The joke was so funny, and did such a great job at lightening both their moods, Roosevelt proclaimed that every year, August 16 would be National Tell a Joke Day.

Just kidding.

Nobody knows why National Tell a Joke Day started, but in a world where the President of the United States is trying to buy Greenland, "Beverly Hills, 90210" is back on TV, and the economy is about to go off a cliff, we could all use a bit of levity.

To celebrate National Tell a Joke Day, the people on Twitter responded with hundreds of the corniest dad jokes ever told. Here are some of the best.

Culture

The Judean date palm was once common in ancient Judea. The tree itself was a source of shelter, its fruit was ubiquitous in food, and its likeness was even engraved on money. But the plant became extinct around 500 A.D., and the prevalent palm was no more. But the plant is getting a second chance at life in the new millennium after researchers were able to resurrect ancient seeds.

Two thousand-year-old seeds were discovered inside a pottery jar during an archaeological excavation of Masada, a historic mountain fortress in southern Israel. It is believed the seeds were produced between 155 B.C. and 64 A.D. Those seeds sat inside a researcher's drawer in Tel Aviv for years, not doing anything.

Elaine Solowey, the Director of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies at Kibbutz Ketura in Israel, wondered if she could revive the Judean Date Palm, so in 2005, she began to experiment. "I assumed the food in the seed would be no good after all that time. How could it be?" Solewey said.

Keep Reading Show less
Science

There's been an uptick in fake emotional support animals (ESAs), which has led some airlines to crack down on which animals can and can't fly. Remember that emotional support peacock?

But some restrictions on ESAs don't fly with the Department of Transportation (DOT), leading them to crack down on the crack down.

Delta says that there has been an 84 percent increase in animal incidents since 2016, thanks in part to the increase of ESAs on airplanes. Last year, Delta airlines banned pit bulls and pit bull-related dog breeds after two airline staff were bitten by the breed while boarding a flight from Atlanta to Tokyo.

"We must err on the side of safety. Most recently, two Delta employees were bit by a pit bull traveling as a support animal last week. We struggled with the decision to expand the ban to service animals, knowing that some customers have legitimate needs, but we have determined that untrained, pit bull-type dogs posing as both service and support animals are a potential safety risk," Delta told People regarding the new rule.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture
via Liam Beach / Facebook

Trying to get one dog to sit still and make eye contact with a camera for more than half a second is a low-key miracle. Lining up 16 dogs, on steps, and having them all stare at the camera simultaneously is the work of a God-like dog whisperer.

This miracle worker is Liam Beach, a 19-year-old animal management graduate from Cardiff, Wales. A friend of his dared him to attempt the shot and he accepted the challenge.

"My friend Catherine challenged me to try to get all of my lot sat on the stairs for a photo. She said, 'I bet you can't pull it off,' so I thought 'challenge accepted,'" he said, accoriding to Paws Planet.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture
via Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

Americans on both sides of the political aisle can agree on one thing: our infrastructure needs a huge upgrade. While politicians drag their feet on high-speed rail projects, fixing bridges, and building new airports, one amazing project is picking up steam.

The Great American Rail-Trail, a bike path that will connect Washington state to Washington, D.C., is over 50% complete.

The trail is being planned by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit that is working with local governments to make the dream a reality.

Keep Reading Show less
Travel