Every once in a while someone asks me why I’m not a professional programmer. I think they wonder why the heck I wouldn’t want to get paid six figures. It’s a long story, of sorts, which makes me have to confess I have no CS degree (which wouldn’t preclude me from being a professional programmer, but always feels weird to say). I’ve never been a professional programmer. As I sometimes explain to people, working with technology is how I paid the bills while I pursued my humanities degree. In all my jobs, I’ve toyed with code, mostly via the command line. I built one small thing with PHP once before I got the teaching job that I have now. I honestly don’t know if I’d like being a professional programmer or coder. I suspect maybe.
But I consider myself a professional teacher. I’ve been studying and working on my teaching skills as long as I’ve been poking around in a computer (well over 20 years now). And I get a lot of joy out of teaching. And, I’ve taught poetry writing, composition, literature, and now computer science, and teaching computer science is by far the most fun. There is something so cool about watching a student get it for the first time, or make something super cool using code, especially when, as is often the case, they didn’t think they could. I love finding ways to help students remember and understand complicated ideas. And I love supporting them as they go beyond the classroom to do even more. It’s problem solving of a different kind, I guess.
I also like middle and high school teaching way more than college teaching. These students are so open to learning and discovering new things where many college students have already decided what they’re going to be and that it doesn’t involve you or the thing you’re teaching them. I may be jaded by the fact that I taught a required course. Those who’ve actually taught CS in college may have a different experience. I taught a Gender and Technology course once that was a hoot and a half. I revised that for my high school students, and it was even more fun! Just saying.
So teaching is my thing. And I do like to code, but given free time, you’re just as likely to find me reading a book about teaching or designing a lesson as you are to find me coding something. They’re both fun, but the former has more draw for me.