Fighting Your Fears

Posted by Bhavini Patel on 1/14/2019

     I have been in education for 13 years and whether I was teaching first grade or fifth grade, the thing that remained constant was to ensure learning remained relevant and engaging for my students. I always tried my best to create a classroom culture that built perseverance and encouraged risk-taking for my students. As a classroom teacher, I took risks and tried out many different strategies and lesson designs. Although I was willing to take risks, one regret I have is not diving into the area of computer science. I had a major fear of the unknown in this content area. I didn’t feel confident with my own skill set when it came to coding. It was ironic that I expected my students to be risk takers and become persistent learners but in all honesty, I wasn’t displaying this behavior myself. Now that I have had the opportunity to learn more about computer science as Technology TOSA, I better understand the importance of exposing students to computer science early and often. I had to fight my own fears to benefit students. Unfortunately, this realization came after I left the classroom so the best I can do now is to encourage and support teachers in teaching coding to their students.

     This year, I took the risk that I missed out in my own classroom by co-teaching an after school coding club for a few weeks at Rancho Mirage Elementary. Eduardo and I piloted our coding program called CakeWalk with grades 3-5 students from the ASES Program at Rancho Elementary. We wanted to create an enrichment class that focused on computer science. Students participated in the Dance Party in code.org, completed an hour of code, then we progressed to  using LittleBits. They used these electronic building blocks for creating inventions such as the Breezy Buddy and and Art Spinner. Lastly, we ended with STEM & Stories, where we read a story to the students and they had to work as a team to plan and build an invention that will solve the problem in the story. This experience was encouraging because it helped develop a newfound passion for coding.

     Being a risk-taker not only helped me grow as an educator but also benefited students I worked with. I think it's important for teachers to put themselves out there. If we want our students to take risks then it's important we model this behavior ourselves. Starting this pilot coding program taught me how students feel when they take risks. Taking risks can feel uncomfotable and stressful but when you preserve and succeed, you feel imense proudness. This is feeling I would want all my students to feel. By not taking risks in the classroom, teachers could be denying opportunities for students due to their insecurities. I am very grateful to the coding club experience as it helped me grow in my own skill set and the students were exposed to some concepts of computer science which they may not have otherwise experienced if I hadn't fought my fear.

     I feel like I’m ready to take this show on the road. Even though I am still insecure in my abilities to teach coding but I am ready to face my fear and take risks with other teachers and students when it comes to coding. I am planning to travel to different school sites and offer enrichment sessions that focus on coding at other elementary sites. Computer science is so valuable that even if teachers don’t have time to incorporate into their instructional day, I want to be able to support by teaching these classes myself. Fighting your fears in the classroom can lead to many new discoveries that will benefit both teachers and students.

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