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Do You Have What it Takes?

By Mindy Hart

When I was teaching high school, I was the stereotypical teacher who liked to decorate my classroom and have 'inspirational' posters and pretty decorations around to motivate my students. And if I'm being real, I think I chose some to motivate me more than my students. When I transitioned to my job at the university, only two of those items made the cut and became office worthy. One is a poster from the 80's movie, The Breakfast Club. It promotes the classic line In the simplest terms of the most convenient definitions of what we found out: that each of us is a brain, an athlete, a basketcase, a princess, and a criminal. The other is this poem most commonly attributed to a female marine recruiting poster:

Where Is The Girl That Lived In Your Mind Quite Often?
You wanted to be more like her.
She was ponytails to your barrette, and A-minus to your B-plus.
When you threw like a girl, she threw harder.
She went by your name and followed you everywhere.
She had no fear of taking chances, and perhaps, neither do you.
She challenged you; sometimes you took her up on it.
When she couldn't stand still, neither could you.
She wouldn't let you go through the motions, she reminded you:
Never Settle.
When she grew older, got tougher, and smarter, so did you.
She could achieve more than you if you let her.
She said your doors would only open if you gave them a serious shove.
Where has she gone, the one inside who pushed you, is she gone forever,
A memory forgotten,
Or is she right here right now,
Looking through your eyes asking once again,
If You Have What It Takes?

So I share these with you not because I think they are excellent motivational items that are going to recruit thousands of female students into computer science and should be in every classroom across the world, but to get you think about the messages we send to our students every day, in ways we may not even know are being communicated. I once had a student ask me if I was advocating criminal behavior by posting The Breakfast Club poster. I suppose if you took the statement to heart, it could be construed that way. However, that was certainly not my intent. On the other hand, I was always amazed at the number of girls in my computing classes who asked if they could get a copy of the second poem, especially because I had put the poem up for myself, not necessarily to motivate them. There was something about the message that struck an internal chord with them.

So I'm asking you, do you have what it takes? What messages are you sending the students in your school about their abilities and interests? What are you hanging your hat on that promotes the excitement of computer science? What's the latest tool, skill, shortcut, or anecdote you've found to share with your students that encourages them to want to move one step higher?

I have kept these two items on my walls for 15 years now. They are my reminders of the potential we each have within us to make an impact on our students. And occasionally, I like to be reminded that there is a little bit of princess in all of us.

Mindy Hart
CSTA Board of Directors

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