Sunday, December 30, 2018

Why I teach

I use Flipboard to consolidate news stories that I am interested in.  Of course, education and technology are two of the topics that are checked.  A couple of days ago, a story from the Wall Street Journal showed up in my feed: Teachers Quit Jobs at Highest Rate on Record.  The economy was one of the reasons listed -- teachers are receiving small or no raises and are finding better paying jobs outside of education.  And the story ended by quoting someone who felt that the American society does not value education and students -- and by extension those who work in education teaching students.

I certainly cannot fault a teacher for wanting a bigger pay check, and realize that there are many fields where teaching degrees and skills can be put to good use outside of education.  Working in the field for my fifth year, I am grateful for the skilled, energetic, and joyful teachers that work at my school.  Each of those educators has a unique reason for teaching and staying in the profession.  I have also been saddened to see some excellent educators leave the field.  There truly is a need for good educators!  As a result I want to add my thoughts about why I teach.

There are many well-written articles and blog posts about the reasons that people teach, and I am adding my perspective as someone teaching technology and teaching as a second career.  Over the summer I completed my training for a CTE endorsement and as a final activity, we completed a three sentence reflection activity on why I teach.  This is an expanded version of that reflection.

I teach technology because the future is now

When I was a senior in high school (1982-83) I took the very first BASIC programming class taught at my high school.  I was hooked!  That lead to a college degree in CS and Mathematics and a 26-year career at IBM.  Over that career, I programmed, trained, consulted, and ended in technical sales,
Placing that hook!
and along the way had the opportunity to live and work in Rochester, Minnesota; Guadalajara, Jalisco; and Denver, Colorado.  It was a long, wonderful career and I also had the opportunity to do some volunteer work with at-risk youth.  That volunteer work gave me the interest to move into teaching.

When I transitioned to teaching from IBM, I got my secondary teaching license in mathematics -- thinking that high schools would need multiple math teachers and few if any computer teachers.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that teaching CS in high school is needed and in many cases with positions left unfilled.  Over the past several years I have gradually moved from math to computer science and have been delighted with the move.  Now I have the distinct privilege to introduce students to computer programming and hopefully hook a few more students to a career that I so enjoyed.

The CS field continues to grow, and so many other fields rely on or have connections to technology and coding.  I find myself excited about available careers in full stack web development, machine learning and artificial intelligence, cyber security, as well as the ongoing needs of operating system, middle ware, and business application development.  There are so many directions my current students can head, and I am envious of the future that they are headed into!

I teach high school because youth are our future

At times I am asked, do I miss IBM -- I worked with great people so of course.  Other times I am asked, wouldn't I rather teach at a community college or university -- there are definite perks to that.  However, teaching at the high school level is something that I am enjoying immensely.

In the Exploring Computer Science class, most students are placed in the class as a freshman or sophomore elective.  The students are very honest about whether or not they "like computers" and if they think that computer science is "too hard".  I do my best to show these students that technology in general and coding in particular can be enjoyable and something that is very doable for them.  Others feel that there is very little for them to learn in a CS class since they are already experts using their phones, getting around firewalls, and persisting with whatever the latest game is.

I walk the line between providing enough scaffolding so students thinking CS is too hard can feel comfortable finding some of those little used keys like (), {}. [ ], < >, &&, ||, etc., and keeping my advanced students challenged and extended enough to keep going and learning new things.  But at the end of the day, these students are going to be the ones designing websites, writing software, and running systems that keep society going when I am out of the working world and enjoying retirement.  I want this world to be running smoothly with all of the technological wonders continuing to flow in the future run by these students.

I teach with joy because attitudes are contagious

Honestly, this last reason for teaching is more aspirational than a statement that I can support on a daily basis.  I fully recognize that attitudes are contagious.  When I look at my coworkers I see the ones that are filled with joy every day.  Their energy is something that I want to be around and also something that I project -- on my best days.  Admittedly, I too often get frustrated with lessons that have gone wrong, students that aren't as interested as I hoped, and either the students or the teacher just having a bad day.

On the positive side, I feel that as a second career teacher, I can look at education with a wider perspective.  I know first hand the opportunities and the challenges that will face my students going into the CS field.  I also don't have the worries or the ambitions that teachers beginning a career in education have.  As the article I linked at the beginning of this post stated, there are many reasons that teachers leave the profession, and happily none of those apply to me.  I am happy with this field and the students I meet every day.  And that's a good thing, indeed.

* Images from


  1. I teach because I cannot get old while I do it. Teaching presents a daily challenge that keeps me on my toes. It is also entertaining as ever. Of course I teach at a private Catholic school which makes a huge difference. I have a lot of friends who teach at public schools. They are just in survival mode. They are constantly badgered about making sure the students pass, not about how well the students are learning.

  2. Very true! Teaching does keep one feeling younger. I do think that every type of school has advantages and disadvantages. My school is a public charter and are Title I with a high percentage of Free/Reduced Lunch and English Language Learners. So, I do wish I had more parent involvement in students' education, but I have 0 helicopter parents that are overly concerned or second guess my teaching choices.