First Days of Being a Teacher

The summer “ramp up” course to help “teachers in training” coming from industry is over. It’s full on teaching mode now. I’ve just finished my 3rd full day of classes. Granted, the first 2 were more about getting to know my students on a Thursday and Friday. Today was the kick off to the first full week in school as I look at what’s in store for my with block schedules (90 min classes).

I have to say that my first few days have been GREAT! I come home with my feet a little sore and lots of stories to tell my wife. You see, I have my students out of their seats probably half of the time right now. I started out the first day with “This or That”. It was a PowerPoint I put together with just product images and company logos. I figured the easiest way to slide into this exercise was to ask PlayStation vs. Xbox. Yep, that woke them up! I split the room in half as they picked the side which corresponded with their images. I did several iterations such as Apple Mac vs. Microsoft Surface, and then Apple Mac vs. Dell XPS.

The last one sort of threw them for a loop but I walked them through, “Are we talking about Dell or Windows?” My typical non-response is “You tell me!” It was a guided journey of corporations, brands (and brand awareness), products, logos and reputations. (Yes we covered many more such as cost, reliability, cool factor, etc.)

This allowed me to have fun discussions with my students as well as between themselves. My three rules:

  1. Be an active listener
  2. Make eye contact with your audience
  3. Be respectful (either making the point or counterpoint)

This was all on the journey to each class coming up with a class name and logo. I thought it’d make for a good “buy in process” for it being THEIR class. WOW the discussions! A lot of insightful naming, which at face value I was like “what the heck are you talking about and why??!!”. For example, a simple one when students weren’t talking and I was trying to draw out some feedback, a student looked to the front of class and said “door”. I was like, okay! I’ll take that! However, when I asked each student why, that’s when the depth of conversation kicked in. “Why a door?” The obvious answer was “…that’s what I was looking at” however it went deeper; it was a play on words with Windows. Sweet! The whole class laughed and that broke the ice! They weren’t afraid to throw out ideas! “How about the Walnuts, Mr. Urban?” as they throw out an “odd idea”. Why? “Well, when you crack them open they look like a big brain”. Heck yeah I’ll take that answer! There were SO many insightful answers!

Then the voting process. “Out of your seats! You’re voting with your bodies!” Those who weren’t engaged are now “part of the process” again. The room starts to buzz with debate and politicking to join “their group” so they get their name. Perfect.

Onto logos! I first start by asking for their ideas as I’m scribing them on the PowerPoint slide in ink. They’re seeing, in real time, the ideation process again. This time in a more creative form. They first start telling me attributes of a given logo… and then, bam! One student says, “…can I just draw it up there for you”. Heck yea! All of a sudden, I have a line of students wanting to draw their ideas and share with the class. I just fade away from the ClearTouch and let them go with their creative and engaged learning. One of the group names as “Tree”. Again, not a convincing name at first. However, the student started to explain that trees have branches (representing students” which grow leaves (growing and learning). They also have roots which spread into different facets of a community high school. As the student grabs the pen for this logo… he’s thought about this one over the weekend! You can tell he can’t wait to get it off his chest! In fact, it’s already down on paper! Then one student points out that the roots should be cables because, of course, this is a tech course! Ideas building on top of ideas! They are having fun with it. That one logo went through several iterations alone! Again, they vote with their body! Boom. Done!

I ask them… why did we do such a crazy and somewhat time consuming exercise? Some share the insights and perhaps what I want to hear. Team building, getting to know one another, and having fun. All great points! However, I ask the harder question of how does this DIRECTLY related to computer science? I mean, that’s what we’re in here for, right? They look at me with blank stares. I explain to them that software is about teams and building on ideas. However, it takes teams sharing ideas no matter how “crazy” they may be because that may spark another idea in someone else. I then point out to them “the Tree”. Version 1.0 You see, in computer science, code has versions. We ideate, share ideas, prototype, and then take a whack at it. 1.0 Then, we may get feedback from out customers or peers. Walnut Tree. 2.0. All of a sudden, this interactive game of naming the class is full circle showing them how versioning and code check ins (with comments) works. Ah, Mr. Urban!! Until our next topic…

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