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Endings and Beginnings

Hurray! It's over! Another school year in the books. AP and IB testing are complete. Final exams are submitted, printed and ready to administer. It's time to sit back, relax, and enjoy life!

Wait, not so fast you say. What about next year? What about summer professional development programs? What about new textbooks, new programming labs, and new content? And, oh by the way, just what will I be teaching next year? No more AB level for my AP students. How many smiling faces will I see in September? What third prep awaits the unsuspecting Computer Science Teacher?

So goes the life of the high school computer science teacher. For many of us, teaching computer science is an avocation, not exactly a hobby, but certainly not our primary job. Many computer science teachers have two or more other classes they must teach in order to have that one section of AP or IB or just plain old Computer Science. How much effort is involved in our avocation as compared to our other classes? What can we do to better manage our time and control our destiny?

I don't have a solution. Unlike many of you, Computer Science has been my focus. However, looking ahead to the 2009 - 2010 school year, I see one section of AP Computer Science (20 students), one section of IB Higher Level Computer Science (6 students), 2 sections of Computer Programming with Alice (40 + students), and 2 sections of AP Statistics (40 + students). I see changes in both the AP and IB curriculum (though thankfully not major) and a new textbook (maybe one I can actually use). And don't even ask me about professional development this summer! Between AP, IB and CSTA commitments, I think I will get to relax for a week or two in August.

My school's total AP and IB examination numbers were up this year, over 1000 AP Exams and over 1200 IB exams (school population about 1800), and my AP and IB exam numbers showed some increase over past years. However, the Computer Science numbers are not growing as fast as other courses. We know there are major curriculum changes on the horizon for AP and IB Computer Science. How will that affect us?

What can we do? We need to be our own advocates, actively recruiting students by tying Computer Science to 21st Century Skills, touting the good jobs that are solving today's real-world problems in a collaborative environment. We need to break the stereotype of computer scientists as loner nerds who seldom bathe and eat only junk food. While that image sells movies, it isn't real and is hardly attractive to the kinds of students we want to recruit.

Where do we start? Join us in Washington, DC in June at the CS & IT Symposium (www.csitsymposium.org). Network with other computer science teachers to form professional learning communities, local CSTA Chapters, or just a valuable resource. Convince your guidance directors and building administrators that computer science is a viable career path for our talented students.

Personally, I intend to put my feet up, unwind, and enjoy the next few weeks as the school year winds down. Then, it's off on a whirlwind tour of the US, seeing old friends and making new in the pursuit of improving Computer Science education. Won't you join me?

John Harrison
CSTA Board of Directors

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