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Help! How does 'high school' teaching work?

Kathy Sierra
Cowgirl and Author
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 10, 2002
Posts: 1572
Hey there -- I know some of you have high school teaching experience... here's my problem. Our daughter just started back to school, taking a regular intro to Java (non-AP) class. School's been in for four days now, and the teacher hasn't begun the class, because she claims the computers aren't powerful enough yet, and she's waiting for a grant so she can upgrade them. So... here's the part that is making me crazy -- the teacher just leaves the classroom, and does not return, and has not taught them or asked them to do a single thing yet. There's no recommended text, so the students just sit there, reading whatever else they want, until they eventually all just start walking out.
And here Bert and I are thinking, "We're just sitting here and would die to teach that class." Does anything like that ever happen? Is it even possible? If we went to the school, is there ANY way we might be allowed to volunteer to teach the class -- with or without the *regular* teacher (who Skyler suspects may not actually *know* any Java). Isn't there some program where people in business can volunteer time in a school?
You can imagine, it's just killing us to be sitting here and there's a classroom full of kids with nothing to do. We certainly could have had them doing at least on-paper exercises by now -- with or without working computers, at least they could have been *doing* things and learning *something*.
Any advice is SO greatly appreciated.
cheers,
Kathy


Co-Author of <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0596007124/ref=jranch-20" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">"Head First Design Patterns"</a><br /> <br />Just a Jini girl living in a J2EE world.
Ernest Friedman-Hill
author and iconoclast
Marshal

Joined: Jul 08, 2003
Posts: 24183
    
  34

I suspect that, given the circumstances, you could circumvent any requirements for teaching certificates, etc, by calling it a "computer club."


[Jess in Action][AskingGoodQuestions]
James Chegwidden
Author
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 06, 2002
Posts: 201
Kathy,
Although I teach at a college now, I do have a teaching certificate in Computer Info Systems at the high school level in the state I live in. Before I got to teach at the college I am at now, I had looked at many computer positions at the high school/JH level. let me share some of things I learned
1. Computers are primarily treated as a business courses at most high schools in the state I teach in.
2. The HS programming classes geared for student for college (like your daughters) are usually not taught with certified teachers in the area.
3. Most teachers that teach computers are usually business teachers, that are older, that get stuck with teaching "really hard stuff" which they cannot handle.
Bottom line= there is a lack of qualified teachers to teach programming correctly at the HS level.

I recommend trying your hand first as subsitute teacher at your daughters school. Most states just require you to have some college background and/or a bachelor's degree. Request you would like to subsitute for some computer classes when there- find out more about the attitude on computer classes.
There are also alternative certification programs- most universities in my state offer them- since there are a lack of qualified teachers in the CS area.
Just some ideas and thoughts.
JC


Author and Instructor, my book
Johannes de Jong
tumbleweed
Bartender

Joined: Jan 27, 2001
Posts: 5089
Sad to hear your daughters time is so wasted !!!
I don't know how thing work over in the US. But I would pick up the phone and make an appointment with the teacher & the headmaster andthrow ideas around with them.
Frank Carver
Sheriff

Joined: Jan 07, 1999
Posts: 6920
because she claims the computers aren't powerful enough yet, and she's waiting for a grant so she can upgrade them
Are you sure this isn't the real reason. The school/department/teacher thinks they are owed some new equipment and have got all bent out of shape trying to make a point.
If that's the case, any good-intentioned volunteering would be seen as weakening the unofficial "teaching strike", and will probably just get a runaround.
Try it. Call the school head and offer to "help out". If they really want the kids to learn, but don't know the subject they'll jump at the chance. And you might just find a few teachers want to sit in "to make sure you are teaching it right"


Read about me at frankcarver.me ~ Raspberry Alpha Omega ~ Frank's Punchbarrel Blog
Cindy Glass
"The Hood"
Sheriff

Joined: Sep 29, 2000
Posts: 8521
What a crock . You don't need to have a computer up and running until you have the basic concepts established anyway. Just some teacher copping out!! Makes me sooooooo irritated, grrrrrrrr

Those kids would be SOOOOOOOO blessed to have you start them out, even if just for a few days. If you are willing, heck I would just go in there and do it. After all, parents come in all the time to give talks on "what they do for a living". They don't need the permission of the School Board or whatever. At least the kids would be supervised :roll: . So what if you accidently TEACH them something in the process .


"JavaRanch, where the deer and the Certified play" - David O'Meara
Pauline McNamara
Sheriff

Joined: Jan 19, 2001
Posts: 4012
    
    6
So what if you accidently TEACH them something in the process .

heaven forbid!
I tend to think that Frank's on the right track - sounds like someone had to throw a tantrum to get the equipment they were promised. :roll:
As a parent, wouldn't you be justified in pointing out to a higher-up how outrageous it is that your kid is sitting in a class doing nada?

public class School{
// teaching happens here, usually
}
[ September 02, 2003: Message edited by: Pauline McNamara ]
Matt Cao
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 03, 2003
Posts: 715
Hi Kathy,
If you have advanced degree(s), you are not required to have teacher credential in able to teach. But you need to have the opportunity to sit in and observe before hand. Are you active member of your school PTA? It is one of the approaches help you win the opportunity. What your daughter describing is similar story in public schools in CA. The problem with our public schools is mislocated funds. The district have too many administators not enough budget for hiring new teachers and equipments. On average there are 5 to 8 administrators per teacher.
In Bert case, probably he ends up as consultant because school probably do not have the budget for him.
Regards,
MCao
Jim Doyle
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 18, 2003
Posts: 36

The reasons given for lack of performance by the teacher are utter
rubbish.
I took AP CompSci in high school (1987). We used Turbo Pascal on DOS.
We did the equivalent of sophomore level data structures (B-trees,
red-black trees, comparison of efficiencies of different sorts). We even
did a project assigmnent. No-one in the class had ANY problems learning
to use a text editor and compiler, ever. We learned more than most
college students. Some college students dont even get to realize the notion
of algorithm efficiency until their senior year.
The teachers reasons are horseshit. You can completely teach the
course with 5-year old used PCs with 128MB of memory and RedHat Linux.
No virus concerns. Better control of the environment too. No need for
internet access. Keep the JDK docs on the fileserver. No distractions from
pure learning by being tempted to surf the net, or copy code from other
web sites, or ask questions. Questions should be asked in the class and
answered by members of the class. Internet distractions can be done at home.
Students can use a Unix GUI text editor and the JDK. Modern Graphical IDEs
will require more memory to run, but I do not think that High School
students should be subjected to a full-blown professional IDE. Too distracting, plus "convenience" features that are useful to the professional
are short-circuits to deep learning and discovery to the novice.
The real problem is that most teachers are poorly intellectually equipped.
Most Education majors fall within the lower percentiles of performance.
Go look at GRE and SAT scores for graduating BS.Educ. majors some time.
-- Jim
Frank Carver
Sheriff

Joined: Jan 07, 1999
Posts: 6920
Kathy wrote: School's been in for four days now, and the teacher hasn't begun the class, because she claims the computers aren't powerful enough yet, and she's waiting for a grant so she can upgrade them.
It's almost ironic. We had a new batch of students in for their first day of a Communications and Information Technology course today, and guess what, there were no computers for them to use. Sure, the machines were there in the classrooms, but we had all been warned not to turn any of them on in case they tried to access the college network and rained virus death on the servers.
So we did a few paper exercises and sent them home early. Anyone got any good ideas for teaching "database design with MS Access" without computers ?
Thomas Paul
mister krabs
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 05, 2000
Posts: 13974
Originally posted by Frank Carver:
Anyone got any good ideas for teaching "database design with MS Access" without computers ?

Database design? What do you need a computer for? The first database I designed (an IDMS database) was for an IBM mainframe. Our tools were pieces of paper, pencils, and plastic templates.


Associate Instructor - Hofstra University
Amazon Top 750 reviewer - Blog - Unresolved References - Book Review Blog
Frank Carver
Sheriff

Joined: Jan 07, 1999
Posts: 6920
I guess the problem is with student expectations. Last year I had to repeatedly remind my group that it's not a course about how to use MS Access, but a course about databases in general. And I'm still convinced that several of them never did understand the difference. It doesn't help that the classrooms have essentially nothing in except computers, with barely enough desk space for a keyboard and mouse each.
I was only venting, really. In practice I'll just bring forward some of the material about ER modelling and application of databases in the real world. Without an early hit of seeing something actually working, though, there's a real chance that we will lose some of the students who have a negative attitude to what they see as "boring theory" rather than the practical course they signed up for.
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Frank Carver:
Anyone got any good ideas for teaching "database design with MS Access" without computers ?

Three ideas come to mind...

1) The Dilbert strip of Elbonians where in the last panel one guy is wearing a box on his head with a hole cut out, and keeping his hands held out for the other to tap. The guy in the box says to the other, "tomorrow, you be the computer."
2) This might be a good resource. On the other hand, I hear it's like crack, so you probably shouldn't let it on school grounds.
3) Talk about theory, then talk about implementations. First cover "database theory"...
1) What is database theory, what does it say about how they work?
2) What types of databases are there? (e.g. relational, OO, OLAP)
3) What are the alternatives to databases? (e.g. file system, networks, property files, XML)
4) How do databases differ from the alternatives and how do you decide when to use each one.
The get into implementation...
5) How are databases made?
6) Given their implementation, what are the good at? not so good at?
7) What types of applications work well with them? How do these applications work with them?
8) What are the issues you need to consider when working with databases?

Now my questions in topic three are designed as college level questions. But then, I think smart HS kids can handle it. Also, I think the larger issues involved are what's important (deciding what information is important in decision making), and the particulars of the database domain are just the medium.
--Mark
Kenneth A. Kousen
gunslinger & author
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 18, 2002
Posts: 89
    
    5
Originally posted by Kathy Sierra:
Hey there -- I know some of you have high school teaching experience... here's my problem. Our daughter just started back to school, taking a regular intro to Java (non-AP) class. School's been in for four days now, and the teacher hasn't begun the class, because she claims the computers aren't powerful enough yet, and she's waiting for a grant so she can upgrade them. So... here's the part that is making me crazy -- the teacher just leaves the classroom, and does not return, and has not taught them or asked them to do a single thing yet. There's no recommended text, so the students just sit there, reading whatever else they want, until they eventually all just start walking out.
And here Bert and I are thinking, "We're just sitting here and would die to teach that class." Does anything like that ever happen? Is it even possible? If we went to the school, is there ANY way we might be allowed to volunteer to teach the class -- with or without the *regular* teacher (who Skyler suspects may not actually *know* any Java). Isn't there some program where people in business can volunteer time in a school?
You can imagine, it's just killing us to be sitting here and there's a classroom full of kids with nothing to do. We certainly could have had them doing at least on-paper exercises by now -- with or without working computers, at least they could have been *doing* things and learning *something*.
Any advice is SO greatly appreciated.
cheers,
Kathy

Hi Kathy,
That's so tragic. Back in '97 I attended an 8-week program called that Alternate Route to Certification program for the State of Connecticut. This allows "career changers" to be eligible to be hired as high school teachers. There were many different subject area specializations at the time, though none in computer anything. I did physics.
The problem you're facing, of course, is that you aren't certified to teach the class. In the education world, that means administrators can't even really talk to you, except as a potential substitute teacher. That would be allowed, but there are rules for that, too (there are rules for everything in education, sigh).
In principle, if you talk to the actual teacher and offer to help out, she can invite you in on an ongoing basis. If the students really like you (inevitable) and they tell all their friends about it (also inevitable), you can possibly still run into problems both with the administration and the teacher's union. That still might be your best bet, though.
As somebody else mentioned above, the idea of a "computer club" might work, too. You still need an official faculty advisor, but the rules for that are much more relaxed.
I assume you've already talked to the powers that be and received little in return, unless you found somebody who knows how to manipulate the system.
Good luck,
Ken


Kenneth A. Kousen, Ph.D. (assorted certs), President, Kousen IT, Inc.
Author of Making Java Groovy - http://www.kousenit.com
 
Consider Paul's rocket mass heater.
 
subject: Help! How does 'high school' teaching work?