Even though it’s vacation I’m headed into town on a rush hour train for 3 days of computer science training . I’m excited to learn something new, and the prospect of teaching something new. And the bonus: I’ll be getting paid for these days (and given lunch!). Giving up three days of this last break before a big solid chunk of spring term- you can’t buy time. I thought a lot about that when I signed up. Learning how to code has been a goal of mine for a long, LONG time, and despite the numerous freely available resources, I have yet to make any progress. So this structured (and paid) training seems the best way to go. And I’ll get to hang out with some colleagues from school. I could use a little bonding time with my local math teachers.
The workshop is being held in a space called Breather (the wifi password is peaceandquiet). We introduce ourselves on Padlet and with name tags (color-coded to reflect our level of expertise; I am beginner’s blue). The participants are seated at two long tables. and it seems that there are less than 25 people here, surprisingly. For a city-
\wide initiative, I thought the class would be larger. The teachers come from almost every subject area – math, science, social studies, special education, and even a school librarian (who, by the way, is a killer Kahoot player!), and we have two administrators in our group. A word about the special educator – she is an angel in disguise (although her name is Angelina, perhaps not so disguised); a brief conversation about her program this year (8th grade Algebra, 6th grade Math, self-contained general education (all core subjects) with students from 6th through 8th grade), and her focus on providing more tools for her students floored me. I feel like I am pushing the edge of my capabilities when I have more than two preps. I’ve always been a huge fan of special education teachers, and would like to pay some homage to another enormously generous human being.
A lot of the morning was spent orienting us to the course that we will be teaching, clarifying what computer science is, what coding is, and how computer science evidences itself in our lives now. At the time, it felt a bit annoying to use two to three hours processing information that could have been presented in a fraction of the time, but with the vantage point of 24 hours past [as I write this], I realize that the facilitator was modeling the start of the course for our students. There was a great deal of collegiality despite different levels of expertise among the students in the class. We are all (I think) here to learn something new on our vacation, something designed to provide broader access to technology and computer science to all of our students. So there is, I think, some common purpose.
After lunch, we finally had the opportunity to dig in to the lessons and begin learning Python. I am thrilled by how straightforward it seems, although the exercises we did were, of course, elementary. I find the logic and need for syntax familiar and clear, and I can see a path for myself for studying. The course comes complete with lessons, quizzes, practices, and assessments, as well as moderated teacher and student forums for support. I can easily see teaching the class with a modicum of modification – really, the addition of enrichment resources, and a daily classroom structure. I left the class eager to learn more.
I then headed over to the Math for America offices to meet with Jose Vilson. We will be co-facilitating the Racially Relevant Pedagogy Professional Learning Team for one more semester, and needed to map out the agenda for the four sessions. The opportunity to work with Jose has been wonderful, for all of the obvious reasons, but even more because I’ve grown through the experience. Rising to the occasion of facilitating this PLT and running the single session larger event forced me to push my own envelope – in a direction I have always wanted to go but couldn’t quite get to on my own. I’m thankful for his good humored patience with me, and for the ways in which our styles of working complement one another. I’m ready to continue the work beyond the PLT, and the clarity of my awareness has developed in large part as a result of our collaboration.
I finally got home at 6 pm and began doing some of the legwork for the first PLT meeting, which is next Tuesday. Part of that task was downloading a Key & Peele video, The Substitute, But a foray on to the Key & Peele YouTube channel resulted in me watching video after video, and laughing more than I have in weeks. I highly recommend you do the same. Here’s my personal fave:
1) Teachers make a lot of decisions throughout the day. Sometimes we make so many it feels overwhelming. When you think about today, what is a decision/teacher move you made that you are proud of? What is one you are worried wasn’t ideal?
Since today wasn’t a teaching day, I didn’t really have any minute-to-minute decisions to make. In the workshop, I did my best to participate in a way that I would appreciate as a teacher, and to stay on task even when the direct instruction got a little looooong.
2) Every person’s life is full of highs and lows. Share with us some of what that is like for a teacher. What are you looking forward to? What has been a challenge for you lately?
Even though I would love a longer vacation, I am looking forward to digging in to the meat of the semester when we return. I was out sick the two days before the break, and was unhappy to break the momentum that had been building up in my classes this term.
3) We are reminded constantly of how relational teaching is. As teachers we work to build relationships with our coworkers and students. Describe a relational moment you had with someone recently.
I am attending this computer science workshop with two other math teachers from my school. My office is in a different part of the building than the main math office, it has been nice to spend some time with them. In particular, I have had the opportunity to reconnect a bit with a teacher (who has become the school programmer, a huge job in a school of 4,000 students) with whom I was quite close. Our paths have diverged, but we still enjoy each other’s company. That’s been a bonus of this week.
4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year.
My goal has been to ‘see’ my students and develop better relationships with them. My work with Jose, and on my own, has been progressing; I am working with two other teachers to help form a social justice club at school, and continue to educate myself [and those around me] in undoing racism.
5) What else happened this month that you would like to share?