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C'est la Z


A couple of weeks ago, I attended the K-12 workshop at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference. It was great to reconnect with some old friends, make some new ones, and talk shop for the weekend.

One result was that I promised to start blogging again.

I've got a number of ideas for posts lined up. Some on pedagogy, some technical, and some cultural. Hope you enjoy them.

Earlier today Ben Chun tweeted about this post:  To summarize -- teachers should practice what they preach. In the post, Bret Victor wonders if there are calculus teachers who spend their evenings doing calculus.

I know a number of math teachers who spend a considerable amount of their free time working on problems and refining their math skills, I also know many who don't.

I know wonderful, inspirational teachers in both camps. I've also known weak teachers that fall into both categories. Great teachers in both categories also spend large amounts of time working on how to best deliver instruction.

Before I started developing the computer science program at Stuyvesant, there were one or two sections of A.P. Computer Science. They were taught by a terrific teacher -- one of my mentors and role models, but he was a math guy and not passionate about CS. When I took over, the enrollment immediately shot up. Not because I was any great shakes, and Dave, the previous teacher was legendary. Rather, the students knew I loved CS. Part of that love was that I enjoy solving problems with computers, coding and what have you. The students can tell.

The fact that I code is a byproduct of my passion and part of the whole package that defines me as a teacher and a person. Whatever success I achieve is a result of this package. It's something I enjoy, and it also keeps me current with the field.

I've seen "naturals" who are just great teachers and get by without a passion for their subjects. More often than not, there's a ceiling in terms of what they can give their students either in terms of content, or more importantly, in terms of inspiration. Some times the ceiling is high enough that there isn't a problem.

Over the years, my "practice" has taken different shapes. Early on, while my students were working on USACO problems. I figured I had better be able to represent, so I started doing them. Later on, I would write systems to support my teaching.

More recently, I've been lucky enough to be surrounded by a number of like minded educators. We frequently share little projects we work on.

This semester, I've been taking the Stanford on line AI and ML classes -- both have been lots of fun.

This is just what I do and who I am and it is reflected in how I teach.

Of course, time and job constraints make coding difficult during the school year. With ~150 students, lesson planning, grading, and ancillary responsibilities take their tolls.

So, I guess I'm an example of what Bret Victor was talking about. I'm not sure I fully agree with his thesis, but it seems to work for me.

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