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Dedicated to Teachers

The Teacher You Want to Be: José Vilson On The Students In Front Of Us


[dropcap]It’s[/dropcap] often said that we as teachers don’t simply teach our subject, but we teach students the subjects. I’d take it one step further and say we don’t just teach students, but we teach the students in front of us, not always the ones we have in our heads or the ones we wish were there, but the ones who are presently in front of us. They’re the ones we must address, and sometimes, the ones we address don’t fit in with our biases and flaws. In many instances, they’re not the classmates we thought we had growing up, the children in the soft commercials our programs used to recruit us, or even the kids at the end of the teacher movies we adore. They are our students.

When teachers come into the profession, many of us work with the mentality of quiet, well-behaved, intelligent (and usually white) children seated in perfect rows and aisles, waiting for our signal to do exactly as we say. Small things like chewing gum and calling out of turn seem abhorrent by comparison, and we react viscerally and twofold. In the meantime, the students right in front of us are human and worth learning more about as we seek to fit them into our molds for them. This doesn’t mean we need to tolerate behaviors that endanger the well-being of other students in the classroom or prevent others from learning, but we do need to dig into why we uphold the King’s English so much in our classroom when the book from which the phrase came is now over a century old. Why do we hold so tightly to the rigid ideas of what teaching used to look like and work with the generation of students we currently do, with different, valid values and diverse understandings of the way the world works?

—José Vilson, "A Call To Lock Arms"

The Teacher You Want To Be: Essays About Children, Learning, and Teaching, edited by Matt Glover and Ellin Oliver Keene, is out now.
Posted by: Brett WhitmarshPublished:

Topics: education, Education Policy, Ellin Keene, Matt Glover, The Teacher You Want to Be, José Vilson, Lock Arms

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