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.

Ok, and So?

“The more experienced I have become as a teacher, the more I have started to filter out people who don’t bring any solutions to the table—even those whose educational ideologies match mine. It’s important for teachers to come together and air our frustrations. But some people seem to love swimming in quicksand, hoping others will join them, as if the movement downward is an actual movement. I love making an irreverent joke about Arne Duncan’s latest speech as much as the next activist, but after a while, my next question is always, “OK, and so?” When sarcasm and vitriol are the only ways of discussing educational policy, we all lose. Whether face-to-face or virtual, teachers’ lounges ought to feel like places for educators to recharge our batteries, not drain them out.

Being about it, any it, requires changing the way we talk about it, too.”

–Jose Vilson, This is Not a Test