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Perseverance with Hour of Code

Hour of Code is a push to get students to try coding, to build bridges for regular kids to enter a world of computer programming.

And for my students, coding is nothing they’ve ever tried, nor is it anything they ever knew about.

And I was out to change that today.

I was fortunate to have the assistance of

  • Ryan, whose last name I forget but who is studying to be a teacher of English learners (He just came by to observe today and I sent him to work. I met him yesterday at lunch, and he already knew who I was. “Your name kind of circulates at St. Mike’s.” Really??!!??);
  • Rich Downing, a senior analyst and programmer at University of Vermont (who answered a last minute call in the waning hours of the evening to show up at my class without knowing anything about me other than what I dashed off in an email);
  • and Vitaliy Kulapin, technology specialist at our school.

Screen Shot 2016-12-09 at 8.01.17 PM.pngWith the help of these three, we dove in with nine students who have pretty low English proficiency, to tackle Disney’s Hour of Code, which made us captain a boat in search of fish and then lead the hero/heroine through a battle against little coconut-covered villains.

I had seen the movie last week with my family, and I found myself wishing I had enough money and room in my car to take my students to see it on the big screen. I thought they would be able to comprehend the story without too much trouble. I’m always looking for experiences like that. But I don’t have access to an account that would allow me to afford to take them. None have been to a movie theater.

So this was the next best thing.

I have been trying SO HARD for the past month to get them to play Minecraft with me, but it’s hard to do when the teacher doesn’t exactly know what she’s doing. And this was a much more doable task. Especially with three other people to help me.

Teaching students at this level is particularly challenging because they just don’t feel heard. Imagine sitting next to your favorite 6-year-old while trying to have an adult conversation with another loved one. Do you hear the “excuse me” call over and over again? That’s pretty much what my class is like: “Ms. Evans! Ms. Evans! Ms. Evans!” Over and over and over. Till I think that I’m not in a high school classroom.

They are not six. But they don’t feel heard. So they call out or come and tap your shoulder or make annoyed sounds that only teen-agers can produce.

Ugh.

They will learn how not to do this.

But in the meantime, I tackle GIANT CHALLENGES with three extra people, so everyone can feel heard.

We did have a couple try to duck out near the end. So we had quick conversations about how one of our school’s graduate expectations is tenacity. I didn’t use those words, but I was able to say that we can’t quit just because things get hard. We have to keep trying. Because everything about learning a new language and culture is hard. But giving up is easy. And if you take the easy way, you will not learn.

Learning from failure is hard. And that little musical rift that played each time the code did not quite hit the mark sounded out around the room pretty much constantly.

But I’m so proud of my crew! They did an awesome job. And they greeted a member of the community who was so excited to come into my room even though he knew nothing about me or them. And a soon-to-be teacher who just came to watch but got a lot more than he bargained for. And for a tech-ed colleague who took time out of his day to lend a hand.

And for that, I’m eternally grateful.

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