One of the things they don’t (or more likely, can’t) prepare you for as you move into teaching computer science is how alone you feel sometimes. As high of a demand as there is for computer science, both in the workplace and in schools, oftentimes you are the only computer science teacher in the building. Sometimes, you are one of very few (if any) in the county or district.
Being the only one of you in your building means a few things. You’ll teach multiple courses (during my time in middle school, I had four unique preps) without the ability to collaboratively plan for them, teach larger courses, sometimes without adequate special educator support to meet every student’s diverse needs, and occasionally feel misunderstood or undervalued. It comes with the territory.
I promise I did not write this post to complain.
This past weekend, I traveled to Phoenix for the Computer Science Teachers Association national conference. It was my second year, and I facilitated a workshop, two sessions, and shared a Nifty Assignment.
Last July, at my first CSTA, was the first time I did not feel alone as a computer science teacher.
It was the first time I understood that even though I might be “the only one” in my building, I am part of a movement so much bigger than my classroom, my building, or even my district.
This CSTA was no different. I leave feeling energized and ready to take on a new school year (and a new grade level!), with connections to passionate, pedagogy-focused educators across the country willing to share knowledge and resources so that all of our students can succeed. Every session I attended was focused on providing teachers with real tools (often sharing all resources) that are immediately implementable in the classroom.
Computer science teachers equip students with skills that extend so far beyond their course. We build innovators, problem solvers, and critical thinkers. We teach students that problems have multiple solutions, and that the best solutions are iterated over and over again. We develop tenacity through rigorous, real-world problems that give students the opportunity to experience productive struggle and flow. We teach students that persistence is tantamount to success, and that oftentimes, the solution may not be a matter of trying harder, but rather of shifting the way you think.
Our field is critical, and if the growth of CSTA is any indication, pretty soon, very few of us will be “the only one” in our building.
But for now, I will start the year in a new school as the only computer science teacher, working to grow our program so that all students can experience the magic of computer science.
This time, I know I’m not alone.