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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 …

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