Posted by José Luis Vilson on Monday, 10/14/2013
It feels like a long time since I've penned anything here. For those of you unaware, I've been immersed in working on my first solo book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education. As it stands, I'd feel comfortable putting this out there to the people who read me consistently. Yet, to break through the usual debate on education literature, my editor and I thought it best to flesh this book out for a more coherent message. Instead of the usual dialogue about books for teachers (and perhaps about teachers), I want to create a book that's by a teacher about a teacher for a teacher (and everyone else interested in what it takes to teach.
Just getting to this point required disappointment and heartbreak. As it stands, many educational publishers want books from teachers by teachers, but with a singular focus on their resources or classroom narrative. Outside of a book like The Art of Coaching by Elena Aguilar, few books use the contexts and stories of what's happening around them to demonstrate why their expertise matters. As a writer, I find many people have difficulty putting their favorite stories from school into a book, perhaps because the stories border on the fireable.
The last thing I'd want is for a teacher to think their work might get them fired. I must be nuts.
I have this wild belief that, simmering underneath our longform pieces, our emotional posts, and our great diatribes about what happened in school. Thus, those of us with a gift need to put their words in even longer form: the book. Special shout-out to Dan Brown (the teacher), Deborah Meier, Bill Ayers, and Frank McCourt, but teacher writers need more cache when it comes to our stories, and the ways in which those stories inspire others to teach.
My shortlist for people who I wish would write a memoir-ish book: Renee Moore, Xian Barrett, John Holland, and Bill Ferriter. I know a ton of other teachers, so perhaps we can suggest them in the comments.
In the meantime, those of us who continue to write can take solace in the fact that people actually do want to hear those stories, way past the instructional pieces that we're always asked for. Expertise has the word experience in there, too.