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C'est la Z

Preparing CS Teachers - building a community

What so many non-teachers just don't get is culture and community can be so much more powerful than curriculum. The problem is, culture and community are harder to create, curate, and maintain and the results don't always show up on standardized tests.

You can't force community or culture in a classroom but you can try your best to foster it. It's ultimately up to the class as a whole. It's like I tell groups who come to events I organize. I can't make an event awesome, all I can do is bring everyone together and set the stage. It's up to us all to collectively make the event work. More often than not, it does.

For our part, we did what we always do. We did our best to be open and honest about what we were doing, how, and why. We sincerely tried to listen to input and we worked to make ourselves available to our students. We also looked to set our class tone as informal but serious, and hopefully fun. We could take time for tangents but remembered when it was time to get back on task. It's the typical balance a teacher seeks to create and maintain. There was no magic on our end, we did what we always did - we were ourselves. It probably helped that there were three of us and could already play off each other Marx brothers style (oh, who am I kidding, more three stooges) but all a teacher can really do is open the door. The other thing we did was provide the tools - Slack and GitHub Discussions (even though it didn't take) and we did pre-load Slack with channels both serious and not so much.

The class walked through. They decided to engage and that started the ball rolling. Of course we still had our part to play. If they posted something, we had to respond, or at least be an active part in the discussion. Now, understand, we didn't respond as "part of the job." That would be fake and they'd know it. We'd respond because we're also part of the community. We wanted them to be part of it and we wanted to be part of it. That's what community is all about.

While community and class culture is something that's always important. In this case, I think it's even more important. New York City and State, like the rest of the country has very few CS teachers that are both strong in CS content and in CS pedagogy and since NY State just started approving certification programs, including ours, there are currently no state certified CS teachers.

When they finish the program, this cohort should be among New York's first certified CS teachers but even now, they have more CS content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge than most of the people teaching CS. They're also all experienced teachers in general. This group can seed a community of CS teachers with strong backgrounds. It's on them to go back to CS4All in and run professional developments and to work with us at Hunter to host events as well.

I'm sure I've already said how terrific the group is and how honored I am to work with them and as a community we're well on the way. Even as I'm writing this post, I'm seeing new messages appear on our community Slack discussion school openings and this is well after our summer program has ended. They're already becoming resources for each other. In a couple of weeks, for their students, and soon for the rest of the teachers in New York.

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