Back in September I talked about embarking on my Fall 2018 HS CS Tour. Since then I've visited about a dozen schools. I'd like to thank my friends who helped connect me to schools - particularly Aankit Patel and Diane Levitt.
Even though the original motivation for the visits was to get the word out about Hunter CS and the awesome things we're doing in the Hunter CS Honors program I always tried to make my talks about something that would be relevant for the entire audience and not just the few that were great fits for my program. I think I've done a pretty good job at that. All this said, doing these visits is incredibly draining. I'm usually up at the crack of dawn and end up taking the subway or sometimes subway and bus way out into the five boroughs. Actually four this year since I wasn't able to get a date to visit any Staten Island schools. It takes a lot of time and effort and while I love talking to students and there some ancillary things I enjoy about getting out into the neighborhoods of the city I'm extremely happy that I can now rest for a few weeks.
Reflecting on all of this I'm realizing how important these visits are and not because they're recruiting trips.
I spoke about some of the specifics I talk about in an earlier post but arguably more important is that for many of them it's the first time for them to hear about the possibilities.
While many students are excited about what they're doing in their first CS classes it turns out that few have any idea where it will lead. They may have heard that computer science can lead to a high paying job. They might know they can get a job at Google but they don't really know what that means.
I saw this at Hunter when I started three years ago and now a lot of hard work later students are much more in tune with the New York Tech community and all that it means.
Students don't realize that there are many programming careers beyond Google and their are many CS careers beyond programming.
They don't realize they can combine computer science with almost any other field or interest.
They don't know that the same algorithmic approach behind Amazon, Netflix, and Spotify recommendations can be used by companies selling cloths, cosmetics, or anything else.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Now I'm not saying that teachers aren't telling their students about the possibilities but rather that sometimes it has to come from an outsider. When I started at Stuy, before I had a reputation (good or bad) I'd tell students things and they wouldn't buy it. Later I'd have a friend from the "real world" come in. Frequently they'd touch on points I addressed in class and all of a sudden I was worth listening to. Sometimes you need an outside voice to empower and authenticate the teacher.
I'm not saying that I'm a super motivational speaker or anything like that. I'm not. I'm an ok speaker with content worth listening to. I'm just realizing more and more how important this small self imposed corner of my job is. Not so much for Hunter but for the kids of NY.
Jut this past week I've started to work to connect some of my current students to TEALS volunteers. If you read this blog you know I'm a big fan of TEALS and have wanted to encourage my students to get involved for a while. Once we get some of our Hunter CS majors into schools around the city to help teach CS perhaps they can help spread the message of the possibilities to even more students.