Slowly (but surely) getting to WOW

Posted in community, technology at 11:23 pm by wingerz


I’ve always had a lot of respect for teachers, but the last three weeks have boosted that respect to stratospheric heights. We’ve done the first three lessons of our Citizen Schools Scheme curriculum, covering numbers, strings, graphics, and booleans. The students on the whole are very bright and eager to learn, but challenges are posed by the non-ideal classroom setup (it’s the school’s “library”/computer lab), frequently disruptive students (hitting each other and calling each other names), and a challenging curriculum full of abstract concepts.

We try to address challenges from week to week. For example, our seating strategy has changed (and hopefully improved). During week 1, we left the chairs more or less as they were in the room, so of course students came in and sat as far apart as possible from each other. Before week 2 started, we laid out the chairs beforehand, two chairs to a computer for partner work, but we made the mistake of letting students choose their seats and partners (leading to a lot of “Well I don’t want to work with X!”). Today we put students’ notebooks where we wanted them to sit but created a bad pairing, leading to day-long trouble. Now we’ve figured out a few rules about how to best arrange the students to maximize cooperation and learning while minimizing disruptions and are eager to try them in Week 4.

Behavior problems aside, it’s hard to keep students engaged, especially when it isn’t clear how (+ 1 2) is related to the video games they play at home. In trying to make the link between simple code and games more tangible, today’s lesson included a screenshot from StarFox to introduce simple graphics and a monster from Doom 2 to introduce booleans. After all, who cares about booleans – unless they’re the only thing saving you from this wretched beast. The images definitely captured everyone’s attention, so it’s something that we’ll be including with every lesson. I was surprised that one of the students recognized both games since they were way before his time.

While it has been frustrating at times, we’re always eager to get back into the classroom to try out new techniques.The Citizen Schools staff (including Emmanuel, who co-taught with me while Lee was away this week) have been amazing, spending a lot of time exchanging ideas over the phone and in emails. We’ve learned to roll with the punches and have been embracing both the successes and failures (opportunities) in the classroom.

And to think, we have it so easy compared to full-time teachers – we only teach 90 minutes a week from a great curriculum prepared by someone else and an in-class Team Leader to help with discipline.


  1. Ceida said,

    March 13, 2007 at 9:51 am

    Do the students call you Mr. Yung? or Mr. Wing? Hehe.. You guys are awesome.

  2. wingerz said,

    March 13, 2007 at 10:37 am

    Our nametags say “Mr. Wing” and “Mr. Lee.”

  3. Andrea said,

    March 13, 2007 at 6:55 pm

    Look at how special you are!! You are aweomse for doing this!

    I was thinking about how amazing teachers are when watching Half Nelson. I realize that an addict may have a more difficult time getting it together than a healthy person, but wow, a teacher’s energy level has to be high ALL THE TIME!

  4. wingerz said,

    March 13, 2007 at 8:56 pm

    Haven’t seen Half Nelson before, but thanks for your encouragement! Like I said, we have it easy. :)

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