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Overcoming the Isolation of the Computer Science Teacher

This morning I had a conversation with the other computer science teacher at my school. I told him I wasn't sure what to use for an exercise for my students in Explorations in Computer Science class. This is a brand new course for our school and we are still figuring it all out. I teach 2 sections of it and Tom, the other teacher, teaches three sections of this one semester course. Tom showed me a project he gave to one of his sections yesterday and it looked great so I asked for a copy. He agreed and asked for a copy of the quiz I had given my sections in return.

Like many CS teachers, I teach multiple courses and brand new courses (all three of my preps are new to me this year) can be especially challenging. Fortunately I have someone in the building to help me. Tom and I discuss projects, quizzes, tests, and everything else about our courses. It is a huge help. I know that I have it better than many though.

In most subjects in high school there are several, sometimes many, teachers who are teaching in the same department. Often there are several teachers teaching different sections of the same course. This is more often not the case in computer science. For every teacher I talk to who has other CS teachers in his/her school, there are many more who are the only CS teacher in the building. Sometimes the only CS teacher in a district. It is hard to explain just how difficult that can make things.

Local CSTA chapters can help with some of this isolation. CSTA is working with teachers and university faculty across the US to help establish and support chapters. Increasingly CSTA chapters are able to support teachers in many ways. For many, just being part of a community is a big help. A chance to bounce ideas off of other teachers teaching the same subject can be an emotional as well as informational lift. More and more CSTA chapters are providing professional development opportunities as well.

The annual CSTA Conference is another huge community event for Computer Science Educators. Ironically in many cases teachers are able to connect with other teachers who are geographically local to them while away at this conference. This can lead to the growth of new local communities and CSTA chapters.

Community is an important part of overcoming the feeling of isolation many teachers feel. It can require some effort on that part of teachers though. It may mean some travel. It often means some planning and setting community building as a priority. But it is worth the effort. I hope to see you at the annual conference or a CSTA chapter meeting sometime soon.

Alfred Thompson
At-large Member, CSTA Board

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