This is Not a Real Review


I’ve been slowly reading Jose Vilson’s This is Not a Test* since the end of summer, and though I want to give his book a more thorough and thoughtful analysis and review, I’m going to have to be content with giving briefer and shallower thoughts for the moment, as I’ve been scattered due to the inevitable press of the beginning of the school year workload.

Vilson takes a wholly unique approach to presenting his perspectives on education–he starts from the inside and works his way out, matching the simultaneously strong and introspective voice he’s developed in his writing online. For me, the most compelling aspects of his narrative consists in his personal journey from student to teacher to leader. It’s inspiring to see a fellow NYC district school teacher transforming into the kind of leader that people from very different walks in life and with very different values can listen to and respect. He elevates my profession.

Vilson’s unique independent and consistent online presence and advocacy has tread a pathway for other educators to follow. When he writes about the importance of educators of color teaching children of color, I am deeply appreciative that he is standing up to not only say it, but to live it.

I get the sense that Vilson can do pretty much whatever he sets his mind to. Here’s to hoping that he not only writes another book, but helps to bring about systemic changes that will bring greater diversity and leadership into education.

* The slowness has been due not to any fault on Mr. Vilson’s part, but rather my own, as I made the mistake of purchasing his book in the Kindle format—and I have a Nook. I thought I would be able to convert the Kindle MOBI format into the EPUB format, but Amazon has it’s so-called “ecosystem” (walled garden would be more apt) locked down pretty tight. So I’ve been forced to use Kindle’s app to read the book, and I dislike extended reading on a backlit screen. Moral of the story: I will not be buying Kindle books again any time soon. Sorry, Amazon, but your scheme for world domination will not include me. Except for all non-book items. You’ve got me there.

Stick With It

By Kumon (Flickr) CC-BY-2.0

There’s an article on Outside magazine that explains why any diet that you may choose is largely irrelevant as to whether you lose weight or not. The most important factor?

Simple adherence. To any sort of disciplined form of exercise and diet. Sticking with it. Persistence.

I think this advice just as easily applies to education reform. On Saturday’s post, we examined takeaways from David Kirp’s Improbable Scholars on effective school systems, and we noted that there’s nothing particularly flashy about what works: it’s really just a lot of hard work. In other words, adherence and persistence.

We’ve also explored this idea before in a post titled “Coping with Complexity“. In that piece, I synthesized some advice from different fields and came up with two suggestions for making decisions when faced with a complex problem:

  • Try almost anything, because you never know exactly what will be effective. 
  • Demonstrate a willingness to push through even in the face of failure, as this can lead to a breakthrough, an emergence after crossing some unknown threshold.
Pick something. Adhere to it. Learn from your mistakes. Keep on keeping on.
I’m beginning to see that there’s a ripe opportunity here for synthesizing all these lessons on complex decision-making that I’ve been gathering on this blog. To be continued . . .