A Case for the Dinosaurs - The Jose Vilson

A Case for the Dinosaurs

by Jose Vilson on October 19, 2009

in Jose

Dinosaurs!

Dinosaurs!

One day, a group of educators, including myself, was having a conversation about veterans of the NYC public school system when one of my colleagues said something to the effect of, “You see what happened to the dinosaurs right? They didn’t adapt, so of course, they became extinct.” We all blurted out a laugh, especially with the mischievous smile he posted right after that comment.

Then I thought to myself, with all the resentment people have towards the veterans of the system, how often do we really look at the practice of the veterans in our building and highlight those who do a great job? When first coming into the building, I gravitated towards the veterans, unlike other NYC Teaching Fellows in the system. I often found myself renouncing the title of NYC Teaching Fellow just so I could get into those classes and observe every lesson possible. I’d go to ELA class, math classes, social studies classes, and science classes, all while lesson planning and taking stuff with me to my grad school classes, just so I could replicate (and in some cases disavow) the practices I saw in those classrooms.

Thus, it’s hard for me to fully accept the notion that the “dinosaurs” of our system don’t actually know what they’re doing in the classroom. As many veterans themselves have posited, “good teaching is good teaching.” This axiom holds true wherever one goes, and it’s something to keep in mind as we move into the future. Can we honestly ostracize those who’ve been in the system for 15+ years simply because some of their colleagues rather sit out their lives in favor of retirement?

Maybe I’m the fortunate one because I feel like most of the veterans in my school actually have their pedagogy in order, and the handful who don’t don’t actually weigh down the rest of the school. These “dinosaurs” hold down the fort when administrative, systemic, or community changes happen, and they fought hard even when no one asked them to. As edu-crats continue the push for changes, far-fetched, self-serving, and ridiculous all at once, it seems, these dinosaurs actually carry on a legacy that’s impeccable.

Now, I’m not saying that I agree completely with every practice from any teacher who’s got 15+ years in the system. A few of them that I do know are obstinate and jaded, but with a system that doesn’t engross itself in real dialogue but just talking points and doesn’t really believe in kids asking questions but making their whole lives about testing, these veterans debunk that and question that purpose.

Maybe it’s something to think about before we call for every “dinosaur’s” extinct. It’s no wonder why they were 20x bigger than we are now.

Mr. V, who can’t even envision being dedicated to one profession that long …

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

msladydeborah October 20, 2009 at 12:57 am

Jose,

I wanted to let you know that I enjoy reading your posts. I especially like the link you provided in this one. I work in the field of Early Childhood Education and Development. The article raises some points that I find to be worth discussing with my colleagues. I have mixed feelings about teaching to pass testing situations.

You raise some interesting points about veterans. I have taught for nineteen years in Head Start. People who think that we don’t really teach or have standards to meet are not atuned with contemporary trends in education period. I make myself work on improving my craft on a yearly basis. If I didn’t work at shoring up myself, I seriously doubt if I would want to work in a classroom at all. What would be the point? I work with people who are just beginning their careers and others who have been working for awhile. I’ve learned that if you’re really serious about what you do-you have to obtain some fertile self-nourishment to be effective.

I’m growing tired of working in a classroom. The politics and non-sense that goes with the job aren’t anything that I cannot handle. I’m just tired of dealing with re-cycled ideas and misconceptions of what we should be doing. I have been dealing with this type of situation for years. It has never had the power to stop me from teaching. But it seems to me that the people who determine what we should do and how it will be accomplished are way off base with reality. I’ve grown weary of the constant shift from one ideology to another, only to end up back where we started from.

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Jonathan November 7, 2009 at 8:03 am

There’s really resentment? I see it from the newspapers, true. I see it from some of the reform people. No surprise. It’s why I call them “anti-experience reformers.” But in general? From colleagues? Kids?

Maybe I’m not listening?

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