This is Not A Test: This is My Reflection

When I left the classroom two years ago, I did it knowing that I was doing what I was purposed to do. That’s what I told myself anyway. I wanted to work with teachers so that I could impact instruction on a grander scale. For two years, I’ve proudly walked the road of math specialist and then technology specialist…never looking back.

Until now…while reading José Vilson’s This is Not A Test

You can feel how much José loves teaching his kids as the words caress your spirit from the page. It’s that deep. I found myself nodding in approval, smiling, laughing aloud and even crying as his words led me on a journey through his classroom…and in essence my own.

I found myself looking back at the empty room of C105 and feeling each emotion that my students left behind. I was there as my José told me that he was quitting school while handing me the papers that I had to sign. I thought of Emilio, a hip hop aficionado/weekend drug peddler who begged to leave my room for a teacher who cared less…but then demanded to stay because he needed one that cared more. I thought of Porsche, who was and is a brilliant young black student…silenced by her peers that invalidated her thoughts. I thought of Jasmine, whose own mother told her that she would be worth nothing more than laying on her back. I thought of my privileged kids, whose parents questioned my abilities but learned quick that their kids were in great hands. I thought of my 12 ELL students who came to me speaking zero English but left me understanding Algebra. I thought of Koolaid, caring/misunderstood…now a high school graduate…that no one believed in…except the two of us.

In 150 pages, I was reminded of why I wanted to teach. I didn’t have José’s upbringing per se, but I do have my own story…my struggles…my abuse…my upbringing. We are not the same yet our philosophies are similar. I knew the world that my students were facing and I didn’t live their lives either but I understood it and we shared a mutual respect for each other and what we needed to accomplish. We were a family because the relationship was priority #1.

I loved José’s description of his “this can’t be life” days. It took me back to my first semester as a classroom teacher in a room full of students that had habitually failed math. I took over for a teacher who required absolutely nothing of them. It was a tough first few days. I’ll leave it at that.

Even with those days…I LOVED being a classroom teacher. I LOVED my students. I LOVE my community. I’ve never missed my former life more than I do right now. So…why did I leave?

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job but it’s not in the classroom. Being in and out of classrooms isn’t the same as having my own. I enjoyed forming relationships with my students. I loved adopting children year after year. They’re still mine…to this day.

What I did not like was the other stuff that happened in schools. I didn’t like the back end politics and side talk about students. I wanted to change that and being in the classroom gave me less power in doing so. However, if I could help a teacher reach his/her students or even have some influence over policy…that’s what I wanted. If I could help a parent navigate the waters of public school and fight for their kid in my community, I needed to do that. That’s why I left.

No, this isn’t really a review of This is Not A Test. This is a deep reflection of my own experience based on how the book made me feel.

That, in my opinion, is why you need to be reading it too.

You’ll feel something…question yourself and maybe understand a thing or two about kids in the process.

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