Ok, so I’m a teacher learning to code, but why should you care? I’ll try to paint a picture of who I am so you can decide if you do or not! What comes to mind when you think of a teacher? I’d guess your brain conjures an image of someone like this: (These are the first 3 images that come up when you do a Google Image search for “teacher”)
Well…I’m not that kind of teacher! (I’m actually not sure these people exist.) I’ve never written on a chalkboard in front of students, I never rely on curriculums published in books (though I frequently incorporate books into curriculum), and I believe that chalk is best suited for creative use on the sidewalk.
This is me:
This picture was captured during a magical day when some children in my class found this mantis on the fence of our playground. This little fellow set off a multi-month investigation of bugs in my toddler class. That’s right. I am an infant and toddler teacher at heart, with a little bit of preschool experience thrown in for good measure. I am also a teacher educator. Naturally, I love education and have a decent amount of it. I have a BA in psychology, an MA in education psychology, and a Colorado teaching certificate. I have way too many professional development credit hours and certifications to list, so let’s just say I’m a bit of an education nerd. I learned a lot about bugs in the experience pictured above, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
I am passionate about young children because they are the most exciting…90% of a human’s brain mass forms between ages 0-3. Foundations and brain pathways for all kinds of things are established at this time: language, literacy, mathematics, social and emotional development, science, and critical thinking, etc. Very young children are naturally loving, smart, curious, and inventive. I like to work with those messages, knowing that even though the children might not remember me in the long run, research shows that early support for those messages will stick with them for the rest of their lives. I’ve met too many kindergarteners who already see themselves as “bad”, “not smart”, or “not good at” all kinds of things, and I see work with young children as a critical step to preventing this.
I am a creative type who never seems to be quite satisfied with the way things are. I am an artist in my personal life, which impacts my understanding of creativity. Professionally, I always need to be looking for the ways things could be. With young children, there’s always something new to learn. They are constantly discovering, so it’s impossible to work with them and not delight in discovery as well. I can be an “expert” in child development, and still learn new things about the world from children every day. I have worked at a handful of different schools, but have been firmly rooted for the past 10 years at an amazing school in Boulder Colorado called Boulder Journey School (BJS). The cool thing about BJS is that it’s a creative-type’s dream come true. Creativity and innovation is nurtured through the entire community. This is clearly a value for our work with children, but teachers are encouraged to be creative and innovative as well. We firmly believe that in order to be effective, teachers need to be as engaged in learning as the children. As I stated above, I need to be working toward the way things could be. I don’t, however, start from preconceived answers…I start from questions. How could things be?
In addition to classroom teaching, here’s a brief list of the things I’ve been able to dabble in, learn about, collaborate with people on, and experiment with professionally as a direct result of working at BJS: public speaking, teacher education course design and instruction, information design, creative and academic writing, marketing, public relations, pedagogical support, community outreach, community organizing, and teacher mentoring/coaching. I started exploring each of these areas for different reasons, but each one contributed something to my professional journey, which always goes back to the question: What is quality education for young children, and how can I inspire others to be just as interested in this question?
Over the past several years, I’ve paid an increasing amount of attention to technology and its place in education. I’ve been spending the time because children and families are spending the time. I think our society is past the point where we should be debating whether technology SHOULD be incorporated into education, and need to be debating HOW should technology be incorporated into education. Further, I’m interested in the belief that when babies today are adults, they will need to know something about programming. There are a lot of predictions out there that argue that jobs won’t be “programming jobs” or “non-programming jobs” anymore, but rather most jobs will involve some programming.
Now I am not an expert in this type of prediction, nor have I done any of this research myself. What I do know about is working with teachers, and have learned a lot about the types of things that get teachers excited and the types of things that absolutely terrify them. Coding is most often the latter (for myself and others). We get into teaching because we love the human, interactive component. We like helping, we like touching hearts and lives, and seeing the difference we make. What will we do when we are expected to teach coding? What will we do when we need to know about coding in order to make those human connections with students and make that difference? Will NOT knowing about coding actually start to leave children behind?
I recently decided that I needed a new personal challenge, and it needed to include both academic and creative components…so I chose pretty much the hardest thing I could think of…coding.
Can I learn to love coding? I’m not sure, but I know that I want to find out. I’m starting with these questions:
- Can I learn to code?
- Assuming I can, what will I discover about the way my brain needs to work in order to code?
- How can I combine what I learn about this type of thinking with what I know about educational psychology and pedagogy to discover new possibilities for working with young children?
- Is “pre-coding” different than “pre-math” and “pre-literacy”?
So why should you care that I’m a teacher learning to code? You need to decide that one for yourself! What I can tell you is that if you happen to stick with me on this journey, I promise to share at least a few new things to think about along the way!