EppsNet Archive: High School

Teaching Computer Science: Diversity for Girls Only

27 Oct 2014 /

NCWIT photo

I called the class’s attention to the NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing, which honors young women at the high-school level for their computing-related achievements and interests. Awardees are selected for their computing and IT aptitude, leadership ability, academic history, and plans for post-secondary education.

The website features a photo of a black girl, an Asian girl, a white girl, and in case you’re not in any of those groups, there’s an ethnically ambiguous girl on the left you can probably identify with. Diversity and inclusiveness for all. All are welcome.

You still have to be a girl of course, they’re not that inclusive . . .


Teaching Computer Science: Diversity Takes a Hit

24 Sep 2014 /

They told us during teacher training in the summer not to scare off the students. But programming is difficult. There’s a lot of complexity and detail to master. The first couple of programming classes I took, we started off with around 50 people on the first day, and had around 12 left for the final exam. Entry-level programming classes have very high dropout rates.

One of our students dropped the class this week, a girl. So much for promoting diversity in computer science . . .


Teaching Computer Science: Applause

23 Sep 2014 /

Applause

We did an interactive exercise to write a simple program that prints numbers and the squares of the numbers — a for loop, basically. We went around the room with each student providing one element of the loop and me writing them on the whiteboard: for, open paren, int, i, equals, 1, semicolon, etc.

I thought it went very well. The timing was good and it was obvious that most of the class understood what was going on. When we got to a girl who’s usually ahead of everyone and knows all the answers, what we needed from her was “curly bracket” but what she actually said was “semicolon” and there was a collective groan from the rest of the class.

When the last student said “close curly bracket,” there was spontaneous applause, immediately, before I even wrote it on the board. It wasn’t like a concert at the high school auditorium where a piece ends and there’s a gap — “Is it over? Do we clap now?” It was like a classical concert with a high-brow audience that knows exactly when the piece ends and when to clap.


Teaching Computer Science: Asking for Help

15 Sep 2014 /

I’m not sure students are asking for help enough despite my repeated admonitions to do so.

On the first day of class, I said, “Ask for help early and often. If you ask for help when you’re in trouble, you waited too long. Ask for help when things are going well. That’s a good heuristic in this class and in other areas of life as well.”

Later I said, “Learn to distinguish between persistence and floundering. Persistence is good. Floundering is bad. Don’t flounder.”

Yesterday I said, “You may think, ‘Well, if I was a better programmer, I wouldn’t have to ask for help.’ That’s incorrect. As you get to be a better programmer, you’re given harder problems to work on. I’ve been programming for 30 years — almost — and I ask for help every day.”

Honestly I feel like a mental case repeating the same thing over and over and yet out of 34 students in the class, 12 didn’t turn in the first assignment, most apparently because even though they finished it, they didn’t know how to turn it in (via an upload link on the class website) and didn’t ask for help or couldn’t figure out how to locate Java files in a project directory and didn’t ask for help . . .


Would Jesus Tow My Car?

8 Sep 2014 /
Jesus

The lot that I usually park in at the high school was full this morning so I parked across the street at what looked like a large church. I checked in at the school office to make sure that was okay . . .

“I couldn’t find a space in the lot out front so I parked across the street,” I said to the woman at the desk. “Is that okay?”

“Did you park on the street or at the church?” she asked.

“I parked at the church . . . I asked myself, ‘What would Jesus do? Would he tow my car just because it doesn’t belong there?’ No, because he’s all about forgiveness and love.”

“Jesus doesn’t love you when you park in that lot. You need to move your car.”


Teaching Computer Science: Remembering Names

3 Sep 2014 /

I’m teaching AP Computer Science . . . today was the first real day of instruction. Yesterday was just introductions and housekeeping.

The first kid I called on to answer a question was named Sean. The second kid? Also named Sean.

“Is everyone in the class named Sean?” I asked.

Unfortunately they weren’t. It would have made it a lot easier to remember everyone’s name.


Teaching Computer Science

1 Sep 2014 /
School

Tomorrow is my first day as an AP Computer Science teacher at Corona del Mar High School. It’s a volunteer gig through the TEALS organization.

Only about 10 percent of U.S. high schools offer computer science classes and at most of those schools, it counts as an elective, like Home Ec or Wood Shop, not as a class that can be applied toward graduation like math or science.

The most popular AP exam in 2013 was US History — 439,552 students took the AP US History exam. Only 31,117 students took the AP Computer Science exam. That’s about the same number as the AP Art History exam. I don’t want to denigrate the study of art history, but given the ubiquity of computers and software and programming in daily life, the study of computer science seems more likely to enable a person to be self-supporting and to contribute to the common good.

I’ve heard people say that computer science should be taught in every high school in America. That may be a good idea, but no one ever says where all the qualified computer science teachers are supposed to come from. The TEALS vision is to put high-tech professionals like myself in schools to teach computer science and to teach teachers to teach computer science.

I’m happy to have the opportunity but I’m also scared, I might as well put that out there. What am I scared of? Like everything else, that I won’t perform to expectations and that I’ll be exposed as a phony.


Why Do (Some) Smart Kids Fail?

29 Mar 2014 /
Bored of Education

A woman is telling me about her two sons . . . they’ve grown up to be fine young men, she says. It’s disappointing, of course, that neither of them managed to finish high school but it was really unavoidable because the older boy was much smarter than his peers and so he was always bored and academically unengaged and finally dropped out completely, and the younger boy just imitated whatever the older boy did.

I’ve heard this type of woulda-coulda-shoulda before and I have to admit I’ve never been totally receptive to it: this happened . . . then that happened . . . the kid did such-and-such . . .

It sounds very passive. Parents aren’t supposed to be passive observers. There are intervention points every day. If things aren’t going in the right direction, you do something to take them in a different direction.

Look in any classroom in America . . . you’ll see kids with a range of abilities. Are you telling me that all of the smartest kids are destined to fail because they’re smart? That because they’re smart, they have no option but to get bored and check out and fail?

Lots of smart kids do very well in school . . . they get good grades and test scores and they go to good colleges. What is the difference between those kids and the kids who get bored and check out and fail?

Think about it . . .


The Hardest Available Challenge

22 Feb 2014 /

One of my colleagues at work has a son in 6th grade. She’s trying to figure out which math class to put him in for 7th grade.

Yuna Kim

Working backward, we know that “normal” kids take Algebra I in 9th grade, the smarter kids take Algebra I in 8th grade, and the smartest kids take Algebra I in 7th grade. Placement depends on how a kid scores on the math placement test.

My co-worker’s concern is if her kid gets a top score on the placement test and he’s eligible to take Algebra I in 7th grade, does she want him to do that, or to wait till 8th grade?

If he takes Algebra I in 7th grade, that would mean he’d be taking the hardest math classes all through high school. Would it be better from a college admission standpoint to take easier classes and get all A’s, or take the hardest classes and maybe get a B+?

Our kid has already been through the Irvine schools. He’s in college now so I can answer questions like this with the benefit of experience.

“I like to see kids push themselves to take the hardest challenge available,” I said. “Colleges are not impressed with kids who get A’s in easy classes.”

“But what if he takes hard classes and gets a B+?” she asked.

“My advice is, don’t get a B+.”

If your kid takes hard classes in high school and gets B’s in them, he or she may not be able to attend a top university, but it wasn’t their destiny to attend a top university. Your kid is not that kind of a kid.

 

That reminds me . . . Olympic figure skating is on TV this week. Are you watching it? Neither am I, but I’ve heard that some of the skaters actually fall down during their program.

They’re supposed to be the best skaters in the world. Even I could go out there and skate around for a few minutes without falling down. Granted, I couldn’t do any spins or jumps or skate backwards or anything like that.

The point is that to be recognized as the best at something, you can’t just do easy things well. You have to risk doing things that are hard to do. In the skating scenario, it’s not enough to say “I didn’t fall on my ass.” No, you didn’t, but you didn’t even try to do anything hard.

In any endeavor, you won’t impress people of discernment simply by avoiding anything that might give you some difficulty. Step up to the challenge.


Dee-FENSE

12 Dec 2012 /

107-2 — Bloomington South girls basketball team beats ArlingtonESPN

They gave up two points?! Who’s coaching the defense, Mike D’Antoni?


Berkeley Voters Leave Something to be Desired as Parents

29 Nov 2012 /

According to a new survey, just over 10 percent of Berkeley High ninth and 11th graders reported carrying a weapon onto school property, while about 35 percent of 11th graders reported attending class drunk or high.

If I had a kid at Berkeley High, I’d be moving out of town yesterday, but I’m reading in the Daily Californian that this news has been “met with surprise and joy from administrators,” the reason being that a similar survey two years ago reported about 17 percent of ninth graders and 16 percent of 11th graders carrying weapons onto campus, and 48 percent of 11th graders attending class drunk or high.

Progress!

“We’re very pleased with the survey results all around,” said Director of Student Services Susan Craig, “and at the same time we’re not at all complacent.”

If by “pleased” she means “horrified,” I couldn’t agree more.

In other news, Barack Obama got more than 90 percent of the Berkeley vote in the recent presidential election, while Mitt Romney got 4.6 percent and Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, got 3.2 percent.

The liberal voter looks to government to solve problems that many people prefer to take on themselves, like raising their children.

Berkeley High School


See You in Hell

2 Mar 2012 /
Romeo and Juliet

[See You in Hell is a feature by our guest blogger, Satan -- PE]

Modesto police are investigating if there’s a criminal case against a former high school teacher who resigned his job to move into an apartment with an 18-year-old girl he met while teaching.

James Hooker, 41, was placed on administrative leave Feb. 3 by Modesto City Schools and resigned less than three weeks later, according to a report at the Modesto Bee.

The newspaper reports that the man, who had taught business and computer classes, left his wife and children, to move in with Jordan Powers, an Enochs High School senior whom he met when she was a freshman at the school. One of Hooker’s children also attends the same high school.

“In making our choice, we’ve hurt a lot of people,” Hooker told the Bee. “We keep asking ourselves, ‘Do we make everyone else happy or do we follow our hearts?'”

Follow your heart, you magnificent selfish bastard!

Follow it right out the front door of the family home and into a Modesto apartment with a high school girl whose poor single mom, from the looks of the photo, couldn’t afford to buy her a set of braces.

DON’T LOOK BACK!

And make yourselves available for interviews and photo ops. YES! YES! YES!

(Let me add parenthetically that, despite what you may have heard, being raised by a single parent does not screw kids up in the head and more people should be doing it.)

One of your own kids goes to the same high school as your new live-in girlfriend?! Oh, the collateral damage is going to be prodigious!

Wait — I’m now being informed that the two of you appeared on Good Morning America this morning?!

Brilliant move, Romeo! A sane person would have said, “No, I think I’ve done enough damage already,” let things play out as just a local scandal in the backwater of Modesto, and missed out on the opportunity to traumatize everyone involved at a national level.

If this doesn’t result in at least one suicide, then my name is not Satan.

See you in Hell, professor.


Gary Carter, 1954-2012

17 Feb 2012 /
Gary Carter

Gary Carter (Photo credit: AxsDeny)

Gary Carter obituary: Baseball Hall of Fame catcher dies at 57

Gary Carter and I went to the same high school — Sunny Hills High School in Fullerton, CA.

My freshman yearbook has a picture of a Carter as a senior. Or another way to look at it is that Gary Carter’s senior yearbook has a picture of me as a freshman.

That’s all I have on this.

RIP Gary Carter.


I’m Addressing the Shortage of Women in Technology

22 Jan 2012 /

I keep hearing that there aren’t enough women in technology, like this is a problem. The most obvious explanation is that women don’t want to work in technology. If they want to work in other fields, fine. If they want to raise their kids, even better.

I did some tutoring for a girl taking AP Computer Science. She’s a junior in high school and wants to be a veterinarian. Afterwards, she told her dad, “If I decide not to be a veterinarian, maybe I’ll be a programmer.”

Don’t let it be said that I’m not doing my part to address the shortage of women in technology, even though I think it’s baloney . . .

Thus spoke The Programmer.


Amy Chua > Dr. Spock

5 Nov 2011 /

Here’s a photo of some of the students who scored 800 on sections or subject tests of the SAT at Wilson High School in Hacienda Heights.

Wilson High School

What do they have in common? Does anything jump out at you?

Either Asian kids are just genetically superior with regard to intelligence, or Amy Chua should replace Dr. Spock on the parenting bookshelf . . .


A Sound Sleeper

15 Aug 2011 /

A girl who’s going to be a senior at Northwood came over to the house this morning to borrow my son’s AP U.S. History study guide. He took the class last year.

This alarm clock is better

Last night, he told his mom to wake him up at 8:30.

At 9 this morning, there was a knock on the front door. The boy pulled on a baseball cap, took out his retainer, pasted a big smile on his face and answered it.

He gave the book to the girl and she gave him a doughnut.

When she left, he went back to bed.

“Wake me up at 11:30,” he said to his mom.

“What are you going to do in college when I’m not there to wake you up?” she asked.

“I’ll be fine.”

His mom and I have been waking him up for 18 years.

The past few days, he’s started setting an alarm on his iPhone that sounds like the dive alarm on a submarine. It wakes me up on the opposite side of the house through a closed door, but he’s slept right through it twice. He’s a sound sleeper.

The first time it woke me up, I thought it was a car alarm, then I realized it was coming from inside the house. I walked down to his room and he was sleeping with the alarm going off less than a foot from his face.

I’m not worried about him waking up for class though. That alarm is going to wake up the entire dorm, so one way or another, he’s going to wake up.


Northwood Basketball 2010-11

17 Jul 2011 /

Don’t be fooled by the title into thinking that you’re going to see pictures of the whole team. No, it’s just my kid . . .


Northwood 2011 College Decisions

12 Jul 2011 /

Unlike highly recruited athletes, kids who are highly recruited academically don’t get to go on TV and turn over hats so everyone knows what college they’re going to.

Northwood doesn’t have highly recruited athletes, so there’s a Facebook site where they can check in and state their college choice.

Also unlike athletes, who are evaluated on a 5-star scale, Northwood students are evaluated on a 3-star scale, according to the commencement program that I have right here in front of me:

*** = Highest honors (4.3 GPA or above)
 ** = High honors (4.0 or above, but below 4.3)
  * = Honors (Not sure; close to a 4.0 but not quite there)

It looks like Cal got the best recruiting class this year with three 3-star prospects and no one lower than 2 stars. USC and Stanford each got one 3-star recruit, as did Harvard and Yale.

To the kids going to Cal: GO BEARS!

To the kids going to USC: FIGHT ON!

To the kids going to Stanford: CONGRATULATIONS DORKS!

To everyone else: BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME!

And to the girls below: I don’t know you but you made me laugh . . .

College decisions


Graduation Still Life

16 Jun 2011 /
Graduation Still Life

Time passes. Listen. Time passes. . . .

— Dylan Thomas, Under Milk Wood

Unlike Paul Cézanne, I didn’t spend hours setting this up. I captured it just the way it looked when I came downstairs this morning.

As one chapter ends, another begins. For the kids — most of them — the next chapter is college; for the parents, old age and death.

Happy Thursday, everybody!


Lasts

9 Jun 2011 /
Boy doing math problems

Last day of high school. Can’t believe it’s all over. No more “what’s due tomorrow?”

The boy has a clock radio but he never sets it because he likes to sleep with the radio on. Yes, we probably should have made him get an alarm clock to encourage responsibility and self-reliance, but we didn’t. His mom and I have been waking him up for school for 13 years and this morning was the last time we’ll do that.


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