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C'est la Z

Believing in what you're doing

The other day, Fred Wilson sent out a short tweet storm turned post on determining if an entrepreneur's startup idea is a good one. It's short. Take a minute to read it over.

At its core, the post and the comments talk about belief in an idea and it got me thinking about some things as an educator.

Tweet 7:

and you have to believe in yourself and your idea or nobody else ever will

resonated with me, not just in terms of a startup idea, but with respect to one's passion.

As a CS teacher we get to shepherd kids through projects big and small. The best work invariably comes from when the kids take an idea they're passionate about and run with it. Sometimes I can guide the kids to an idea and it works out well but when the kids end up working on the stock project the results are less spectacular.

Once the kids buy into a great idea, the educator has to create a framework for success - give the kids the tools and set up the safety nets when things don't go as planned.

I've never liked all those student entrepreneurs programs – make a business for the sake of making a business - much better to help guide the kids towards something they're passionate about and help them run with it. That's when great things happen.

The neat thing is that it's not limited to classes. CSTUY is having its first hackathon in a few weeks; def hacks():. One of my juniors came to me with the idea - she got a couple more kids on board and we're off to the races. I've done some things behind the scenes to make sure we don't have any real problems but the awesome thing is that the event is all on the kids.

In a way, I'd imagine that Fred, as a VC, once he invests, his role is to help create the framework for success. I'd also imagine that the best way to do that is similar to what a great teacher does - bring out the best in the student, make them aware of pitfalls and be a supportive mentor.

On a deeper level, as teachers, we get to work with young people as they're developing their own passions. This was something else that I started thinking about after reading Fred's tweet storm, in particular tweet 9:

because I never want someone telling me they wasted five years of their life on something because I told them it was a good idea

Teachers are role models and the best teachers are passionate about their subject and their craft. One of the things I'm most proud of is the number of friends, former students, who have told me that I gave them a career, I introduced them to their passion. Sometimes, though, we miss. I've seen some kids come through my program and leave loving CS but it was, at least in part, an illusion. I work with a great team and sometimes loving classes can stand in for loving a subject.

I was talking to my daughter when she was a senior at Stuy and she commented that she was missing all the subjects she loved one day when she had to leave early. She included math. I said "since when do you love math?" She respond "I meant I love math class." That makes sense she had an amazing teacher.

So, at times, kids leave us for college and then they might discover that they don't love CS as much as they thought they did.

Now, I'm not overly concerned with our misses here since I think we do better than most in showing CS and Tech for what it is and we always leave the kids with a great set of mental and practical tools but every now and then I see a kid who is doing well in the tech industry and in my gut I feel that the world missed out on a great author, chemist, or doctor.

So, I've rambled on this long enough - just some food for thought from a teacher.

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