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July 2006

Progress Update

I met with "the bosses" on the online course, and I am pushing to have it ready by the end of next week. Also found out how much it pays and how it is going to work.

It's open to students in my district and they get a laptop to work on it. In fact, I have that laptop here and I am getting it configured so that they can use it. Right now, I'm debating as to whether I want to install J# which I think I might want to do.

I've put Java on it and JCreator so far. I've also downloaded some movies on Computer Science, so they that don't have to download them using dialup.

I've got the first two units completed.

And as for a commenter who wants to do the course -- let me see how many are enrolled and how it works with the district kids before I do anything else.

Former student

Ran into a former student today. By the way, go back and say hello to your former teachers some time. Especially if they were helpful at all in your career. We LOVE hearing from former students.

He is on the reunion committee for the class of 1996 (yikes!), and had me when he was a freshman, so he must have learned Pascal on a DOS machine. Or maybe even one of the Commodore 64 kids. I should have asked.

The cool part is that he actually 4 years as a programmer for SouthWest airlines, coding in Java. Now that was one of my "dream jobs", and I actually interviewed for SouthWest. He went to back to school to get a business degree and is working for a consulting firm.

He did say thank for you the programming class.

Summer School -- Almost over

I enjoyed teaching it. As always, these students frustrated me. One finally pushed too many buttons today, I just got sick of him yelling at me. "Miss, I need to go to the restroom". That sort of thing.

I had to do some creative grading. And I had a student fail out of each class, which was sad, but they didn't do what they were told.

Would I do it again? Certainly if at my school and in my classroom. I sincerely doubt if I would do it somewhere else. The best thing, is that it kept people out of my room.

I honestly don't want to teach without computers ever again. Yes, I will freely admit that I use them as babysitters for these kiddos and as rewards. But I also DO the majority of my teaching.

I truly believe that all students need instant feedback, and I can do that with the computers. I could do a better job of it if I taught more Algebra. As it is, everything has been temporary so far.

Now I can look forward to teaching technology full time.

Summer "pay"

Our local paper -- Dallas Morning News -- has a blog that their columnists contribute too, and their education guy made the followig statement. -- Correction -- he's the highway guy. The education columnist got it better.

The Dallas Morning News | Bold Types Blog E-mail This Entry

Teachers also have a lot of opportunity in summer to earn extra income.

Certainly worth discussing here.

I will start out by saying, I'm pretty happy with my pay and life these days, BUT when I started out teaching, the pay cut was a bit tough to take.

There are many reasons that I left programming as a profession and went to teaching, but I will have to state that the pay cut was hard. It was easier because I went without pay at all for a couple of years while I was getting my teachign certificate, but it was still hard to take.

I started teaching during a time period when it was not hard to get teachers for our district. In fact, the district had a reduction of force.

The good news is that I am able to pick up a few thousand dollars extra each year, but the bad news, is that I don't come near close to making up the $24,000 I lost each year by going into teaching. And that doesn't take in account the raises I would get.

This summer, I'm doing summer school, district finals, and I'm going to get paid for setting up and teaching an online course. I also get extra money for tutoring for TAKS, AP incentives, and this year I also got a math stipend. All told, I get about $4000 extra. Like I said, not the $24,000 difference.

It was real funny but until after I completed a year of teaching, my husband thought the same way. He even encouraged me to try to find extra money.

But as each year goes on, he encourages me NOT to find the extra money. He didn't want me to teach summer school for example. Why? He wanted me to recharge and relax.

Teaching is stressful and a lot of things get neglected. Summer gives me a chance to clean the house really well, assses what needs to be repaired/replaced and get that sort of thing done. Same thing goes with the cars, and other things in our lives. He prefers that I take the summer to deal with that sort of thing.

So the point of this -- have you managed to make up the pay cut YOU took to teach (as there isn't anyone teaching high school CS who hasn't taken a cut in pay). And if you do, does it take away from your energy during the school year? In other words, what is the true cost?

The education columnist has a better editorial at and isn't part of the Bold Types blog. His editorial shows how the starting pay is not going to keep teachers because our raises from one year to the next are pretty flat.

My district is starting at $39,150 with a Bachelor's and with a Master's Degree and 14 years experience, I'm getting just above $49,000. That doesn't seem quite right, does it?

Unfortunately it's true

And it is something that my last principal just couldn't wrap her mind around. She was very insistant that everyone can learn everything.

Coding Horror: Separating Programming Sheep from Non-Programming Goats

I'm also not sure I'd call them sheep or goats. Over my 14 years of teaching, lots of perfectly nice, normal children, many of them gifted and talented just couldn't do learn how to program. What I usually tell their parents, is that not being able to program probably makes their child normal and that they have very little to worry about -- and please don't tell the parents of the programmers, but I'm quite sure that those of us who can probably have major screws loose. Hey, it makes them feel better.

I'm going off to read the article that prompted this post.

Student feedback

I just got some cool "feedback" from a student. She wanted to know how come I liked teaching math so much. My answer -- I like teaching computer science better. Well, she's been in my CS class and she says that I am just as enthusiastic no matter what subject I teach.

That's COOL! Even though I really don't like teaching math. However, I do like to see students learn no matter what subject.

Major breakthrough

I've been "stuck". I've been stuck on picking an IDE, the one I want to use isn't ready for prime time, so I'm settling for JCreator.

I've also been stuck on finding the best way to install Java, and then the best way to tell my students how to do it.

First on the IDE. There are some great IDE's for students out there -- HOWEVER, and this is a big HOWEVER, setting up an IDE so that it has to be downloaded and reinstalled on a regular basis is not good. Worst yet, is when it has a hard coded expiration date. And the latest version has to be ready for the instructor to play with all summer AND then have time to install it on a jillion machines (or in my case 28 + the online course). I've only told the developer this every year that his expiration and his messing around has driven me nuts.

I am using a great tool though for teaching remotely. Actually tools. Both from Techsmith, called Camtasia and Snagit. Camtasia lets you record screen movies, helps you build title clips, etc, a lot like Premier, but in my opinion faster and easier (though Premier won't let you record the screen). SnagIt lets you do screen captures and lets you edit them. I made a movie last night which I'll try to upload and make available after I finish this post.

Anyway, I'm going to concentrate this week on finding the best way to install Java -- I did a whole server technology thing last night, but I believe that is complete over kill. I want something that just allows students to compile and run, along with the Java docs.

Novell Server driving me nuts

Maybe someone lurking can help. We have a Novell server in my room, not sure which version we are running, but I think it is 5.1 or 5.2. I know enough about it to add users, set file permissions, and that's about it.

Here's the deal. I unraveled the network wiring, and the workstations stopped seeing the server. We get a "Tree or Server Not Found". The same day I moved things around, the workstations stopped seeing it. And it made sense as for several hours I didn't have the server connected to the network. Now here is the weird part, my notebook sees it fine.

The difference? Client level, the notebook had not been turned on since the move, and it has IPX configured as a protocol.

It's driving me nuts, because I prefer giving my students exercises with Examview, and I'm forced right now to use HTML files. I'd appreaciate any answers as I doubt it will get solved until the week of the 17th, if then.