I currently teach IT at the Secondary level (high school) at a well-respected and high academic achieving private school. It has been an interesting year and there have been many benefits working in this system. Overall, my experience at my current location has been positive due to an overwhelming caring school culture, plus I have experienced an increase in PD opportunities.
However one thing remains the same, no matter whether I work in the private or public system. My experience so far working as an IT teacher in Qld has resulted primarily in a feeling of loneliness, marked by intense bouts of outrage regarding the assumptions people make about IT and “geeks”.
About loneliness as an IT teacher
I have built up a fairly close group of individuals that I know I can trust and collaborate with through my PLN (via Twitter, FB & private correspondence). So the loneliness at work is not so much about feeling alone, it’s more about this constant feeling of having to make decisions & support them on my own; I often remark that I feel like the “HOD of myself” (HOD = Head of Dept.) & I believe I therefore should be paid more (another rant for another blog post!). Oh don’t worry, people are very supportive here but they are NOT knowledgeable about IT, at least not in a current IT industry & integration in Ed kind of way. I think this feeling of loneliness is pretty common, especially in small schools or big schools where IT has withered in a dank corner (think over use of Excel & PowerPoint!).
About assumptions about Geeks
Based on the above problem, which is mainly a result of teaching in a field where there doesn’t seem to be many of us, I also run head-first into a LOT of well-meaning educators that make ridiculous assumptions about geeks. First of all, NOT all people that enjoy technology or are good at ‘coding’ would label themselves as “geeks”. This term has been around for a while and has had several different meanings over time. The ease to which people like to categorise or stereotype groups of people is a concern in our society and something that educators are not immune to doing.
Check out the interesting definitions of “geek” here (chickens?): http://www.dictionary.com/browse/geek
Yesterday, I had to defend the “geeks” (I did not originally use this word in the conversation) who like to “code” (really, what they should be called are computer programmers, web/app developers, etc.). I was making the point that there has been a reported decrease in IT jobs for University Computer Science graduates and this seems to be due to the lack of currency in these University degrees. I also mentioned the trend where IT employers are employing tech-savvy individuals, who do not necessarily have degrees but they may have an ePortfolio of expertise that they can show off (GitHub account, for example). I learned about this trend, not only from reading about examples online, but also from employers that I talked to at a recent Ruby on Rails workshop I attended. So after I made these points in a conversation with educators yesterday, they quickly wanted to point out that these “geeks” had marketable skills; however, they likely weren’t critical thinkers or “learned” people. How laughable! I have met & talked to many app & web developers who do not have a degree (& make more money than teachers!) and I would definitely label these people as critical thinkers, collaborators, good communicators and excellent problem solvers. Just because you’re good at “coding” is not likely going to give you a job these days, you also need to be able to communicate well and collaborate with others. In my opinion, being able to program an app or website for a business requires plenty of problem solving and a huge amount of critical thinking.
I personally only got my first ever degree a couple of years ago! Does this mean, I only became a critical thinker during my degree years, ha! I went to University right after high school and I can tell you that I definitely was not engaged, nor was I a critical thinker in an academic sense. However, I definitely learned how to problem solve and pay for my next rent check! I communicated my way into a variety of jobs, collaborated with many people and eventually went back to tertiary education to get a diploma in Business & IT. Before I ever got a degree, I worked in teams, I helped develop web systems for General Motors North America that included full system architecture (database, business code & web front-end), and I also taught Business, Economics and IT at the tertiary level at a Canadian College. I have also traveled and lived in a few different countries. I don’t care if you call me a geek or not, but please don’t make assumptions about whether geeks can think critically or not purely based on whether they have completed tertiary education & received a degree!