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Good Teaching is Not About the Programming Language

After working for a number of years as a commercial programmer, I decided to become a teacher here in New Zealand. As part of my teacher training, I had to chose three subjects to teach and the main subject I chose was Maths. My teacher training also included working as a student teacher in a number of schools. After observing a Maths teacher in a very poor school I asked him: "Do you ever get bored teaching (such simple) Maths?" You can tell I probably should never have continued with my teaching career! He replied "I don't teach Maths, I teach students".

I am often reminded of this when I hear the great programming language debate. Language choice reasons vary. You may be a zealot, an aficionado of a language, someone who teaches a language because they have to, someone who does it because the tertiary their students are headed to will use it. There are many, many reasons and shades of opinion on programming language choice.

But in K-12, we want students to be simply enthused enough with the subject to wish to continue. And it is not language choice which determines that. It is teachers who "teach students". It is teachers who care about their students and their learning. I would argue that it is completely irrelevant whether teachers care about language A or language B.

And if, towards the end of the course, you can acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of the language you used, your students will appreciate the insights that gives and your academic honesty.

Margot Phillipps
CSTA International Director

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