Being a CS Teacher is Hard

Some days, I feel the burden of teaching in such a fast-changing field.  Just in the last week, I’ve worked in four different languages in four completely different contexts.  People expect me to know about everything from Photoshop to mobile phone programming.  Like many CS teachers, I’m the only one, so I have no one I can turn to to ask questions, to bounce around curriculum ideas, or just to commiserate.  It’s why I enjoyed the CS Teacher Meetup I organized last week.  I think I just needed to talk about stuff–and I think everyone there felt the same way.

It’s also true that I wear multiple hats at my school.  Many a CS teacher is often the Technology person, either on the academic side of things: developing curriculum and skills, working with faculty.  Or they might be on the more technical side: managing the network or email servers, managing hardware and software, etc.  Or both!  And that’s in addition to teaching.  And that’s kind of like keeping up with two fields.  They’re related, but they’re still two fields.

I would just really like to feel, for once, that I have a handle on what I do.  I feel like I’m barely treading water.

6 Replies to “Being a CS Teacher is Hard”

  1. What I love is when they call me because the school copy machine is sick, after all the message says “call system administrator”. And some how I am the school bell system expert. The school bells are not on a computer. I have learned to say “NO” to the cell phone set up requests. Why would people assume we are experts on iPhones when we do not own iPhones? Because it is sort of a computer?

    I never feel like I know everything I should know about this job. Just today I learned how to give an old HP printer a static IP address after 15 minutes of digging through menus. Oh, and set up laptops so they are on one network for the hard wire (the printer), and another network for the wireless (internet). Never, ever boring.

  2. With the world so heavily reliant on computing it’s surprising how little schools and colleges focus on CS and IT. To be the only CS teacher must be hard. For a while, the chair of our CTIS program was one of the chemistry professors. My university has been fortunate enough to find two new professors and one willing enough to take the chair position so our faculty isn’t all over the place. This not only gave us CS majors more choices when it came to choosing classes, but it pushed the school to upgrade our lackluster network and PCs.

    While I understand you’re doing your work at a high school mainly, my suggestion would be getting more students involved. We’re a tiny independent liberal arts college and no one would dare bother one of the CS professors for tech-support. The school utilizes a help desk comprised of current and former CTIS students for setting up networks, trouble-shooting and software/hardware installation. I bet Pennsylvania has it’s share of young, bright minds that could take the role of tech-support and let you focus on educating.

  3. Apothecary, funny you should mention getting the students involved. I am in the process of doing just that. We do have a tech support team who deal with hardware/software/network issues, but if it touches anything to do with teaching, I end up providing assistance. My hope is to get the students to teach the teachers and their classmates things like working with images, creating videos, making better use of the cloud, etc.

  4. Hi all,

    I am Josh Williams a junior business major here at Guilford College. I thought that it was interesting that you bought up your role at your school. First off, I agree with you, that field seems to never rest when it comes to innovation. There are people that are trying to advance the current technology of computers, and other information technologies daily. I’m not sure the process you take in learning about these new technologies that the world is exposed too, but its seems that as soon as you learn one technology and how to teach others, there is a new technology that is created that can run circles around the previous.

    As for the double roles that you play, within your school, I think that displays the fact that the market is at a high demand for IT specialists. Like you said, your job demands two type of skills. Luckily your work place isn’t relying heavily on IT production throughout the workplace. But those two roles that you play and struggle keeping up with, two IT majors could have those jobs and excel because they both would be trained to handle their job specific tasks. Just saying that this is how I perceive the job market for IT majors. Plus people aren’t willing to take the time to learn technology but they are willing to be users. So as long as this parallel continues, people will always need someone to explain the technology.

    – Josh

  5. Here is the problem with hiring IT professionals to work at schools. One of the large school districts here in Montana is advertising for a tech support technician. The requirements are pretty extensive, be an expert in networking, Macs, PCs and so on. Here is the problem – $13.77 / hr. Nobody with the required experience is going to work for $13.77 / hr. The typical turn over for the starting techs in my area is one year. They take the job until they can find something better, which is not hard to do. Teacher techs on the other hand are teachers with a much different motivation.

  6. Garth, exactly! We just contracted out our IT work to a company that works with most of the area independent schools. They have great IT staff and get a decent salary from the contracting company. They work at multiple schools.

    But, besides myself, we have another faculty member who does some tech work. There’s a lot to be done. Much of it is help desk, but there’s also networking, security, software installs, smartboard stuff, audio/video setups, etc.

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