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C'est la Z

Teaching and Pedagogy - words and music

I wanted to give a little more context on yesterday's post.

In reading over the various comments on social media related to the topic of required and desired CS teacher knowledge there are those that fall on the content is king and pedagogy not so important and others who think you don't really need a deep knowledge of CS. I think you need both and think current teachers need to be given a reasonable but finite amount of time to get there.

Whenever the topic comes up I think of Eddie and the Cruisers. Tom Berringer is playing a song - "On the Dark Side" for the band as the band ridicules him. Eddie (Michael Pare) says "Not bad" to which a band mate says - "he can't sing, he can't play and he can't write. What's not bad?" to which Eddie replies "he's got something we need, words and music."

Words and music - teaching and pedagogy. One isn't enough - you need both. You need the content but you also have to do something to bring value to the kids beyond just dumping the content on the desk - it's why I'm so against scripted curricula.

Why do I think both sides are so important? I probably got here from teaching at Stuyvesant for over 20 years. On top of that, I'm a Stuy grad ('84), Stuy husband (Devorah, also '84), Stuy brother, and two time Stuy parent. While Stuy has and had some good teachers, I got to see a bunch of bad ones. I saw teachers who didn't know their subject areas and teachers who didn't know how to teach. The rub is that at a school like Stuy the kids will figure out what they need on their own. You can put an unripe avocado on the teachers desk and the kids will still pass all the exams. Sure, the kids pass but every kid deserves a teacher that adds value to their lives.

Some of the worst at Stuy were teachers for whom Stuy was their first (and only) gig - they never really had to learn how to teach but for a variety of reasons - all the kids pass the AP or in the case of teachers that know content but not teaching, the "smart kids" like the teacher because they "know stuff" - they think they're good teachers.

Sorry, you have to add value.

The best thing that happened to me when I started was when Stuy's chairman didn't hire me. I ended up at Seward Park and that's where I started to learn my craft. Once at Stuy, I had to be careful not to fall into the trap - you can become a good or even a great teacher at a specialized school but, just like anywhere else, you have to work for it. You have to really look at what and how you're doing.

All of this is to say that to add value to your students you really have to know both the content and you have to know how to teach - you have to add value. If you can be replaced by an avocado, you're not earning your paycheck.

Now, I'm not saying that the teachers who don't know CS and are taking on this new challenge shouldn't be given time to learn the subject or that raw teachers who know their subject shouldn't be given time to learn how to teach but you eventually have to get there.

If we're okay with teachers who have to follow scripts for either content or pedagogy for the long term then we're devaluing our profession. I'd like to think we add more.

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