Teaching Code.org taught me…

This is my fourth year teaching computer science, but my second semester teaching it with code.org. I’ve always toyed around with teaching it in different ways — do I focus on game dev?, do I focus on the creative process?, do I go heavy with the coding language?, and what platforms and “schools of learning” do I follow (code.org, codehs, codeacademy, devleague)?

After trying a variety of different approaches, I think last semester was the best year I taught the curriculum. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:

  1. Students enjoy learning about it. They like knowing novel information, creating, and building through new languages, techniques, and enjoy talking about issues relevant in our digital age.
  2. It takes time for them to learn it. I’ve gone through the growing pain of trying to fit a lot of content into the semester — only to realize it takes time to increase student learning in computer science. Students, given the right tools, can excel with time and patience, in coding.
  3. Female representation increased. I am also proud of the student representation of girls increasing — something I really tried to focus on last semester.  This is the first year I have at least half a class of girls in my coding classes!

Our students are ready for taking on a second level of coding this semester and I am currently getting them to set up github accounts and download visual studio code so they can start practicing command line. My goal is for them to complete 3 projects and advance in their skills with flexbox, advanced javascript (arrays, objects, loops), and create more robust applications. I am hoping they will be ready to learn web dev 3 (and do back end dev) next year.

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Persisting

I’ve never actually searched “teacher burnout” on google before.  Tonight, I was surprised at how it generated a number of hits.  Skimming through articles, including one about teacher demoralization, was a comforting recharge to know: “I am not alone”.

Of all the articles, this one matched exactly how I feel about my own causes for teacher burnout:

  • Volume (too much to do and not enough time – one of the most common problems and also one of the most burnout-rendering problems)
  • Environment (including overstimulation and inadequate resources)
  • Tedium (this generally applies to veteran teachers who find themselves doing the same thing year after year and does not typically pertain to new teachers).
  • Student Behavior (including classroom management, lack of boundaries at home, drug use, gang involvement, etc.).
  • Administration (when ineffective and/or antagonistic).
  • Community Relations (involving media, parent relations, etc.… all of whom can potentially disrespect teachers or not support teachers adequately).

After 7 years of teaching, I’m finding that why I became a teacher and the realities of persisting in the profession will at times conflict.  If I want to continue teaching, I realize that the ideals I cherish and looked forward to keeping in my profession, may not always come into fruition.  It takes discernment to know when and how.

My lessons won’t always be amazing.  An amazing lesson requires so many factors and levels of support to be in place.  Sometimes, the quality of my teaching does not solely lie within my control.

I may not always be able to help all my students.  I give what I can.  And that’s okay.

My students may feel at times that I do not care about them.  It is easy for all of us at times to take for granted those in their lives who truly care about us.  And that’s okay.

My bosses might not be able to count on me to follow through on all my commitments.  Things come up.  Some commitments will be delayed and reprioritized.

I may drop the ball and not be able to carry out projects with quality–this does not mean I do not care about my students or am unable to provide them with quality learning experiences.

And all this, still, while giving much of my time and focus.

If I am going to stay in it for the long haul, I am going to have to take things in stride.

But what does that mean, exactly?  I’ll say (for me) right now: taking things one step at a time and accepting that perhaps I cannot execute precisely every time.  Looking long term, I’m choosing to be kind to myself.  My philosophy for teaching has made a difference many times over–I choose to reject the at times, tyrannical idealism.  As a teacher, I never berate my students if I know they are giving me their honest best.  This is my best–and well, one’s best is perfectly enough.

Trains and Tracks

Today is April 4th–in exactly 1 month I turn 30.

30 is such an epic number for me.  Since grade school, all of my “plans” led up to this big number 30.  Let’s say I was building a track and learning to operate a train for myself…where do I want to be?  How long would I take to get there?  What’s the best way to utilize my talents and resources to get there?   In my middle and high school career counseling classes, to answer the question “where do you see yourself in __ years”; 30 was the year in which I would have accomplished all my goals…have at least 1 child, be married, own a house, finish my PhD program.  That was the destination I would reach by the 30 year time frame.  Intense?  Yes.

I remember distinctly the day at the raw age of 21 (feels like yesterday) I laid my railroad track down and wrote my 10 year plan on a napkin.  I had all the years mapped out, what I’d be doing when, and what I should have accomplished by 30.  As each month and year passed by, the goals never changed and the 30 year mark didn’t really either.  Planning for the goals simply became a check list and inventory of whether I was on track or not–and what I may need to adjust to make sure I stayed on track.  Was it as exhausting and neurotic as it sounds?  Heck yes.

The funny thing is, I didn’t even realize it until all of my planning came to a halt around February 2015, right before my 29th birthday.  The strong bustling train I operated that accomplished most of those goals (owned a house, in the last years of my Phd, married) suddenly was forced to hit the brakes hard because some random deer was in the way.  Actually, it was like there was a whole line or herd of deer stretching out as far as I could see in the path I wanted to go.  I had terrible nights of not sleeping and feel into deep depression–or maybe it was more that my depression caught up with me, lol.  Perhaps this occurred because I knew in 1 year I would be 30–did I accomplish all my goals?  Did I do myself justice in the way I spent my 20s?  Will I be okay?  I know now I was simply questioning whether I still liked the train track I laid for myself those 8 or so years ago.

The following months and year were uncomfortable as I questioned a lot of things.  And it’s probably always easier to say in hindsight that I’m grateful for those obstacles that presented themselves.

Ultimately, my view of a track and operating life has changed.  I like the change.  Making plans and exercising self-discipline is how things get accomplished, yes.  However, I’m prioritizing staying open to myself and paying close attention to the lessons I learn each day.  Not the lessons people try to force upon me but the ones that come from within me.  They are the signs telling me whether I’m on the right track or if there’s a better track for me in store.

 

 

Weekend in Molokai

My husband and I spent some time in Molokai this weekend.  We both had never been, so exploring the island and finding new things was part of the island adventure we both embraced!

The first stop we made was at Kanemitsu bakery.  The food was delicious!  We ordered the buttermilk hot cakes, spinach omelette, and kim chee fried rice with over easy eggs.  The portion sizes well suited to the cost of the dishes.

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After we ate, we went to the Kalaupapa lookout and Phallic rock.  The view was breathtaking and the trail to the phallic rock was mesmerizing.  The area had signs explaining that the locations were all sacred to Hawaiians, and being there, one could truly feel a sense of reverence and beauty.  The stillness and majesty of nature here was so serene.  It was definitely worth the visit.

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For lunch, we went to the Coffee Plantation in Kualapu’u.  We ordered the guava and lilikoi flavored pretzels and mango and strawberry smoothies.  It was scrumptious!  The food is so fresh here and homemade, it’s definitely worth having.  Do keep in mind that Molokai time is a very real thing.  Most restaurant orders we made took a while.

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The next morning, I went for a run.  We stayed at the Molokai Shores and I explored the nearby area.  I honestly enjoyed being on this island.  It’s absolutely beautiful.  The place is best to visit for anyone who wants a calm, relaxing experience.  It is important to embrace Molokai’s pace and stillness to truly enjoy the island.

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Our second day of breakfast was at the Tiki Cafe in Kaunakakai town.  The mango smoothie was great and better than the coffee plantation because there was less ice, and more fruit.  My husband got the Molokai breakfast panini.  That was also very good!  Be prepared to spend some money as well as wait a while for your food.  Molokai’s prices in general are a bit high.

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We went to Kanemitsu again for a danish.  My husband got the custard danish.  It tasted like an upgraded, homemade, fresher, and yummier krispy kreme donut.  Worth a try!

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We spent the rest of the morning enjoying our hotel room.

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The view is absolutely beautiful, but the hotel room itself was definitely sub par.  I didn’t take pictures, but I was very tempted to.  We had a hard time checking in because the actual check in office is not at the hotel–a change that is apparently recent–because locals didn’t even know and we were not told ahead of time.  We had to go back to the town just to get our keys.  After asking the concierge and telling her about our dissatisfaction, she did allow us to have a late check in free of charge, which was very nice.

For lunch, we ate at the Kualapu’u Cookhouse.  We loved the phrase on this menu that says “If you’re in a hurry, you’re on the wrong island!!”  Very truthful and representative of our experience on Molokai.  Yet again, the food did not disappoint.  We had the roast pork plate and teriyaki chicken salad.

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Our last afternoon on Molokai before leaving, we did more sightseeing.  We found this beautiful place with its awe-inspiring views.  We felt like we were on an exotic foreign island!  Walking away from Molokai, we were determined to come back and actually have plans to go fishing and hiking.

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Before arriving at the airport, we got some pizza sticks to go from Molokai pizza cafe.  The dough was yummy!  The price was also reasonable for the amount of food we got.  Molokai food is priced high and the service is slow, but all the food we had was homemade, fresh, well portioned, and scrumptious.

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Next time we come, we’ll be prepared to book some fishing experiences & go to the Kalaupapa National Park!

Post summer library visit: journey to myself

Yesterday was my official last day of summer, so I spent it going to the library and shopping for groceries.  It’s funny how certain environments bring out the best in you–walking through these shelves, I just feel my spirit energy increase and radiate. Pure joy.

This summer I’ve been making creativity and centering my personal goals. Creativity: to prepare me for the upcoming teaching position I have ahead; and centering: to strengthen myself as I journey further onto my own constructed path of life…a time when much courage is needed to forge ahead.

Funny enough, I found myself gravitating to these books. I believe that if we listen carefully enough, we can hear life’s intentions for us speak, but we have to be willing to utilize faith and trust in discovering it as it unfolds. These are the books that spoke to me as I walked the library halls:

1. Taoism: the road to immortality

2. The wind is my mother

…perhaps I was inspired because they remind me of my favorite books, Wild Swans & Secrets of Shamanism.

I loved wild swans because it described the real stories of 3 generations of women in China, and gave me strength back in 2008 when I was experiencing some depression. I find it no coincidence that these books are the voices of my ancestors, as Im both Chinese and Native American.

A mentor once told me that one of the reasons I may experience so many internal confusion is because there’s so many aspects that make up who I am, it’s easy to get lost in knowing who I’m supposed to be and what I’m supposed to do for my own happiness. At the late age of 29, I’m still figuring it out. Nevertheless, the knowledge and experiences I’m learning from these books help me feel like I’m coming home to myself. It all just takes time, to allow myself to practice and allow myself to come closer to all these understandings. Years.

Many thanks to the universe and its light for helping pave my way. I pray that I may only bring honor to it all as I graciously receive its priceless gift of inner peace.  Aloha.

My Best Friend’s Wedding

A few days ago I had the honor of shooting my best friend’s wedding.  These are only a few of the 250+ pictures I took for her.  It was a hot day and there were lots of people there to shower love on this wonderful couple!  I had to break out my teacher-self to usher and give direction of what pictures would be taken when.  Also, direct people to their positions…it was a new experience, but one I felt grateful to help with.  Thank you Ui, for your love and friendship.  I hope your day was a special one!

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