Sunday, April 25, 2021

Back in the Classroom Again

“What would motivate you to come out of retirement to teach during a pandemic?” That was the question I was asked during an interview for a long term substitution position.  My retirement last June had been planned for a year or more. I was very content in retirement. I wasn’t bored, COVID restrictions were not being particularly hard on me.So why was I considering this opening?

My wife and I were fully vaccinated so going back was not as scary as it had been but that just made the decision possible. There were really two reasons I was open to the idea. One is that the schools was Phillips Exeter Academy.  They have small classes (I am now teaching two classes of 10 and one of 12) and they teach around a Harkness Table. I’ve long been curious about that style of teaching. The other reason was that they really needed someone in a hurry. The person they initially hired to fill in for a teacher on sabbatical resigned after a couple of weeks into the semester. I guess I am a sucker for that sort of problem.

So what is it like for me? Well, I feel good about the COVID precautions. There are Plexiglas partitions around the table, students and faculty wear masks everywhere, and faculty are tested for covid twice a week. I believe students are tested often as well. Teaching with a mask is awkward and sometimes it is hard to tell which student is talking because I can’t see anyone’s lips move. But teaching more conversationally around a big table is pretty nice.

I have two students attending via Zoom which takes some getting used to but the students are good about it.

The hardest part is jumping in to without a clear idea of what students already know or don’t know. And figuring out how to move forward. The classes are in Java using Processing and Eclipse as IDEs. Both IDEs are new to me and it has been a while since I taught Java. AP teachers may remember the Marine biology Case Study? That was when I last taught Java. Catching up on the IDEs has been interesting. Returning to Java makes me appreciate C# and .NET even more. But we’re managing. Having smart, motivated students and small classrooms helps a lot.

So, how is your school year going?


Garth said...

Welcome back! For me the year has been pretty much normal. We have been fulltime from the beginning. Masks and as much distancing as possible. Java. I gave up on it. It was easier to rewrite my curriculum. Luckily all the State universities switched to Python as their intro language. I can do Python. Eclipse is great, if you are a pro software programmer and need all the features. Eclipse and Java, you are going to have so much fun.

Alfred C Thompson II said...

Yeah, fun. We'll go with fun. :-)

Jim Peters said...

This so reminds me of my first year of teaching ever. Especially my first class of seniors in the Programming and Web Development shop. Being just the related teacher, I was put in a 40 year old science classroom with an overhead projector and IBM AT computers. None of that was the real challenge, just ignored them. The challenge was as you had Alfred, trying to figure out what the seniors had learned. It took me about six weeks to figure out where each student was and me to home in on a topic they had knowledge about. Being new to most things about programming in Microsoft IDEs rather than Unix, I couldn't - for better or worse simply start in front of whatever they were working.