It’s a book. Read it.
I don’t do book reviews. But this is different. It’s José.
Vilson is a blogger, and a poet, and a teacher. The author part wouldn’t matter if he wasn’t a teacher. He wrote a book about teaching. Some about his teachers. And some more about him, the teacher. All here in New York City. Manhattan.
So look. I’m not doing a long write up of what I liked about the book. He tells a good story. Some of the anecdotes are like a slap in the face, others as sweet as a first kiss. He’s got his influences, his growing up on the Lower East Side. He’s got the time his answer was wrong, until it was repeated by a white kid. He’s got rejection, cockiness, becoming a teacher, screwing up, and getting stuff right.
I liked the first part, about him growing up. And the second part, about him being a teacher. But I didn’t really get the third, shorter part. Felt like an add-on.
I mean, other people, smarter, more important, have written glowing reviews. Diane Ravitch big enough for you? They describe his style and his voice and his getting-it-ness better than I can. Even better, Karen Lewis – that Karen Lewis – wrote the forward. With all those big shots, why should I bother? Because it’s Jose, I need to do this.
There are other books about teaching in NYC. They are probably fine books, written by people who really taught. And they may contain interesting stories and insights. But some taught briefly. Others were in awe of NYC, not having grown up here. Others – poor word choice, I know – can’t get past their first experience working with so many people who weren’t white. These books can be interesting, but they are not the same thing. And then there are the books about teaching by people who’ve never taught, and don’t know anything about how schools or teaching work. Those books are not interesting.
“This is Not a Test” is a real book, about a real NYC kid, both Haitian and Dominican, but not really either. He’s smart. He teaches math, but he uses words – blogger, poet, author. He can write. He became a teacher recently enough that he remembers how bad starting sucks, but he’s been doing it long enough, and well enough, that he gets a chunk of the big picture. And he has stories. And trust me. You should read this.
Look what I did with my extra copy:
I think I’m supposed to mention that the publisher is Haymarket Books, and that they are cool and you should check them out.