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C'est la Z

Finally some down time

Since entering end of term grades I've finally had a few days of legit down time. It's been a long time. In the past few years, I went right from Fall finals int dealing with whatever issues arose around planning the next teacher ed cohort.

Not so this year. The three classes I'm teaching are the same as last year so while I'll be doing a lot of tweaking, planning, and updating once we get started, there's not much to do now. For the teacher ed cohort, I'm advocating starting our next one in the Fall so again, nothing to do for a while.

So, what have I been doing with this newly freed time? One thing I've gotten to do is a bit more painting - something I decided to pick up during the pandemic - something to get me off computer screens for a while. I'm just a beginner but I'm enjoying it and making progress.

Another thing I've been doing is getting back to some programming. Nothing huge but it's something I haven't done in a while. Last December (2021) I did a few Advent of Code problems - basically the easier ones at the start of the month that I could knock out quickly. I stopped when the end of semester crush got bad. Same thing this year. In between, I didn't write a line of code. That's not entirely true - I wrote some small snippets for my classes but I don't really count that sinces it was all variations on things I've written a hundred times already.

Since the semester ended, I've been able to go back and finish off a couple of "harder" problems and also dive in to a couple of of other small projects. One, a tool to automate some GitHub work and another a Slack bot to make emoji polls. This got me back to dealing with web code, working through OAuth and a few more little things. I did all of that in Clojure but also got back to playing a bit with Rust.

I don't think it's absolutely necessary for CS teachers to write programs in their spare time but for many CS teachers, and certainly for me, there are a lot of benefits. On the practical side, it helps me keep up with current technologies. When I started teaching, there was no web. Then HTML. Soon after Perl was king along with CGI. Later, Javascript brought us Ajax. Fast forward and we're using things like React. All very different technologies and all require different approaches. Even if I'm not teaching web development, keeping current also keeps me current in good development practices, architecting projects and other aspects of coding through which I can help my students.

If I'm exploring with contest problems like Advent of Code, I'll learn new algorithms and experiment with data structures - also something that helps me as a teacher.

Of course these are pretty obvious and on the surface. Another HUGE benefit is it helps place me in to the students mindset. When working on new projects, one has to find resources and information on the web. Learn new libraries, tools, and techniques, and of course DEBUGGING!!!!!!!

Since I'm retiring from Hunter at the end of the Spring, I fully expect to continue to be able to dedicate some time to programming. After all, even though I plan to work to help transition Hunter to the next guy I expect that to be less taxing than if I were to continue to be the guy.

Programming, reading, and other personal professional development is really important to teachers. I lost that time over the past couple of years, but prior, at Hunter I had it. The real shame is that K12 teachers are rarely given the time and I think their students are worse off as a result.

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