Loneliness of a Department of One

I read the blog post by Daniel Moix on the CSTA blog today (My Voice) with interest and a mix of emotions. His is a story I have heard before. The computer science teacher who is a department of one or merged into a department (sometimes science, sometimes math) where they just don’t really fit. Much as we talk about computer science being a course that could (should?) count for a math or science credit the fact is that few schools believe it fits either department. It’s a tough situation to be in but it is the norm for high school computer science teachers.

What does it mean? It means no one locally to discuss projects, grading rubrics, how to present specific topics, share test development, help recruit students or provide many of the other means of peer support that academic departments normally provide as a matter of course. It means feeling like no one understand you or what you are trying to do. It means no one to go to when a student “breaks” their program and you can’t figure out what is wrong. It means no one to plan with or bounce ideas off of. It also means that when budget cuts or scheduling issues come up one is all alone against groups of people with different priorities.

Even at technology education conferences the computer science teachers are often a tiny part of the program. At a large event like TCEA or NECC (now ISTE going forward) there are special interest groups and they are helpful. At other regional conferences computer science teachers often find nothing of interest and no active group for them to relate to.

This is one reason that the work of the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) is so important. The leadership cohorts that CSTA has been training are actively at work starting local chapters. There are now local CSTA chapters starting up and/or running in 10 states now. If you are in one of those states and teach computer science get in contact with them and get involved. Strength in numbers. And if they is no local chapter get in touch with your local CSTA leadership cohort people (list here) and help them get a local chapter going in your area. No one should be alone.

Oh and you New England people, if you are looking for a guest speaker let me know. Love to come by and help anyway I can.

Comments (1)

  1. Myra Deister says:

    I completely agree.  I am merged into the business department at my school.  It was an advantage because they would be interested in at least obtaining new computers every 5 – 10 years.  When I started at this school I was merged with the math department and they had no interest in replacing any computers.  The ones that did work barely worked.  

    It has changed for me in the last 2 years.  A new business department chair who has said that she does not like computers and who basically ignores me even though I have increased the number of my classes while the number of business classes has decreased.  The other business teacher has eyes on my Fundamentals of Programming and Visual Basic classes because he has a business credential and according the to California Teacher Credentialing Department, he is qualified to teach programming.

    I belong to a local CSTA group.  I enjoy the meetings and have gotten some great ideas from the other members.

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