"How is England?"
That’s all a previous mentor and professor wrote me, and my response sort of got carried away. Clearly, I have a lot going on in my head about the start of school, so I though I would write a post about it.
England is quite fantastic. I have done a bunch of touristy stuff and met quite a few Irish and Canadian teachers coming to my school. We are all brand new. It sounds like there is a fair bit of staff turnover from last year and the coming weeks may be a bit of a challenge. Everyone involved with the school is excited to get started and there seems to be a lot of support and passion from fellow teachers with has great promise for the upcoming year.
As my department head is also fairly new, I am lucky enough that he has been able to pass along a bit more information recently. Looks like I will be teaching years 7 through 10 (grade 6 to 9) with 7 and 10 being on the new cs curriculum and 8 and 9 still on the old ict curriculum. The 10 curriculum is setup with lots of resources from Cambridge with the ultimate goal being that students will write Cambridge Nationals exams. I don’t really fully understand what that means in terms of my teaching yet, but I’m not going to say no to some helpful structure at this point. We are working with Scratch 1.4 and Python 3 depending on the year. Hopefully I can make time for some of the students to do the hour of code, or participate in some other computing events that reach across borders in some way or another.
The area where the school is located is considered low income with a high immigrant population and I have noticed many children (all boys) playing video games and many adults doing paperwork at the library. I am not sure if this translates to many students not having experience or access to computers at home. They did seem quite capable of getting on minecraft though, so perhaps they just got told to play outside and went to the library to continue gaming.
It is shaping up to be an interesting year and I am excited to get started. It is definitely a very different teaching environment form anywhere I have taught, which is what I was looking for. Having only done practicums in Spruce Grove and Stony Plain, I was looking forward to some city experience. Rural Alberta isn’t really a great place to get a feel for teaching in diverse environments with many different cultures.
I am extremely excited to teach computer science with students at this young of an age. For the most part Alberta Jr. Highs(7-9) I have worked with don’t cover programming or logic, they mostly work with word, excel, and other software products. These skills are exceptionally important, and don’t even get me started on the fact that we still need to teach them (because we do), but I have also found students in this age group can be incredibly creative when given a tool like Scratch and a little direction. Not to say that high school students aren’t creative, but they do seem to be more afraid of failing or not making something as “cool” as the person next to them. Also, the fact that computers year 7 is required should greatly increase the diversity of the class and lead in interesting directions. For those of you that don’t know, my last Canadian Grade 10 class had 29 students, of which 28 were boys, and 28 spoke English as a first language. These students were also around the age of 15 and it was there first opportunity to experience computer science in school. Many of the students lived in rural areas with limited internet access (would have trouble streaming video, gaming, uploading, or downloading), which lead to varying levels of computer skills.
I did teach a short lesson on programming with Scratch in one Canadian grade 7 class which led to a programming club and some amazing video games being created by my students. It is quite amazing when you get to your classroom after eating and the students are lined up waiting to get in with a request that you teach them how to make broadcasts work. ”We Googled it and found out we can maybe use a thing called broadcasts to get the laser beam to fire, but we couldn’t make it work right. Can you teach us broadcasts.”
Ok. That got a little rambly and I will probably get better at blogging at some point.
I get a little nervous not really knowing my school environment blogging about it. I don’t want anyone to construe anything I say in a negative way. I am very excited to start this term and I believe it will be an amazing year.