Getting protective

I’m referring to students here.  Once, when I was interviewing for a job in admissions, the director asked me what kinds of students I’d have a soft spot for.  Because this was a fancy-pants liberal arts college in the Northeast, and I’m from the south, I said, Well, I’d be on the lookout for a kid from a small town in the South, who’s had to raise him or herself and 3 siblings and still made an A in AP Physics. Generally, I appreciate kids who’ve been through some stuff–a divorce, a death, an illness, a major job loss, a financially-strapped family, etc.  In my current job, I’m often on the lookout for kids who don’t fit perfectly.  I think there are clear paths for certain kids, kids who know they want to be a doctor or a lawyer.  They have a collection of classes and extracurricular activities they need to participate in and excel at.  And they often do.  But there are kids who aren’t necessarily bad at those things, but they aren’t at the top either.  Or they struggle more generally with “fitting in.”  They have friends, but not a lot.  They’re a little rough around the edges.

I really like those kids.  Often, those kids are really good at techie kinds of things.  They like to figure things out.  They like trying and failing.  And they keep trying.  They end up with some really great stuff.   I am, I must say, a bit protective of those kids.  On numerous occasions over the last couple of months, when someone has said of a student that they’re struggling in x subject, I’m able to say, You should see their technology skills. Often the response to that is, Great, how can we take advantage of that?

What’s kind of sad to me, though, is that many kids still see technology and Computer Science as odd. It’s not as acceptable as Biology or Chemistry or Math or even Drama.  It’s beyond the pale for some kids.  I’m hoping very much to change that, while still remaining protective of those kids who are drawn to this discipline because they don’t fit anywhere else.  At the very least, I’d like kids to see the power a little programming experience could give them as a Biologist, Chemist, even as a doctor.

5 Replies to “Getting protective”

  1. This is one reason why you are so right for your job :). I know exactly the kind of kids you’re talking about, and I try to watch out for them too.

  2. I was on the fringe of being one of those kids (I didn’t go hardcore into math/CS the way my best friends did) and what surprises me is that, 30 years after Apple came on the scene, being a tech/geek person is still fringe. Dude, who’s made the most money in the last 20 years? Who’s been at the center of the cultural landscape? Geek is great.

  3. Jackie, thanks. 🙂 I really do love my job more and more every day, both because I get to work with kids across the spectrum, and especially because I hope I make a difference for the kids who live on the edges.

    Jody, I know! It drives me crazy. But I see kids all the time who hide the fact that they know their way around a computer. They say things like, “I can’t do this. I’m not really techie.” and then proceed to create a video in five minutes or something like that. I’ve yet to see a kid, especially in middle school, who isn’t good at basic tech. The deeper stuff, they need to learn, and they’re willing to.

    I often wonder if they do that for other classes. Maybe for some kids, they’re hiding being smart at all.

  4. Just found your post. You described my kid! And so true that CS and programming are still seen as being on the fringe – at least it’s that way in my son’s school. Not much has changed in that perception since I took programming in high school in the late 70’s.
    Keep encouraging those techie type kids – we need more like you!

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