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April 19, 2009 / Ben Chun

Options

It’s time for an approximately annual review of life path options. I’m committed to staying at Galileo, teaching AP Computer Science, and leading the Academy of Information Technology program for at least another year. But there’s something about April’s particular inflection point in the academic cycle that pulls me to this kind of thinking. Or I’m just procrastinating.

Keep Teaching. My current situation is pretty much as good as it could be. I have a very reasonable course load, teach only classes that interest me, and have a good set of leadership roles and relationships with decision-makers at the school. I can continue to refine the assignments, assessments, projects, and presentation of computer science material for high school students. I can try to tackle the underlying issues that tend to make the achievement gap even more pronounced in technology classes. I can mentor newer teachers and co-design curriculum within the AOIT program. The downside here is that I lack colleagues (since I’m the only CS teacher at the school, out of 100 faculty) and so often feel like I’m drifting in my classroom practice or missing some of the critical mutual reflection that I’ve had in the past. I also do have a certain ambition to make an impact beyond my own classroom.

Administration. I already do a certain amount of work with adults, mostly at my school but also a bit in the general bureaucracy of the district. I’m pretty good at managing projects and designing systems. There are some inspiring examples of what a technical leader can do at a school site. I think particularly if paired with someone strong overseeing curriculum and instruction, this could be a powerfully leveraged position.  There are also other possibilities beyond my current school site that are less clear to me.  The downside here is any position of this sort would take me away from directly working with students, which is where I’ve so far derived most of my meaningful professional experiences.

More School. I’m perfectly primed for learning right now, and would greatly appreciate a structured (by which I mean structured by someone else) approach to working with new ideas. I find psychology, neuroscience, biology, and computation all have really interesting aspects. I’m pretty good at reading and writing. The downside here is that my academic background is pretty weak even in the subjects I’ve studied — no significant publications or research experience — and that I lack a clear direction. I have a difficult time being comfortable with most of the results in social science as compared to hard science, and hardly think any of the work done in education “research” is more than an extended riff on someone’s theoretical ideas forced in the shape of an experiment. So for this to be a viable path from here, someone would basically have to drop out of the sky and tell me that I was chosen to do an advanced degree in a particular field. That person could totally be Carol Dweck or Claude Steele or Geoff Cohen.

Nonprofit Work. Now that I’ve had some experience working in the public sector, working with kids, and tackling some of the challenges in education — in addition to my technical background — there are all sorts of organizations where I could be useful. I haven’t explored this in great depth, but my sense is that while I’m not attracted to big foundations (except maybe the MacArthur Foundation), I do often get inspired by academic projects that turn into strategic attempts to help, and could see myself working happily within a pretty wide range of approaches to improving life for humans on earth.

New Venture. I’ve had a bunch of ideas in the past four years for specific technologies or platforms that would be beneficial to teachers and/or the institutions of public education.  The general theme of these ideas is to use public funds or private investment to make tools and content free and open so that we don’t continue to pour tax dollars into publishing companies or web services or whatever else is seeking to profit from the business of education.  None of these concepts are formed up into anything particularly solid, so right now this also seems like it’s in the category of needing someone to drop out of the sky and inspire me to do something specific. Consider this an invitation, sky-dwellers.  I am ready to crush tasks.

2 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Lukas / Apr 20 2009 7:29 am

    We’re looking for a few good humans at One Acre Fund.

  2. Jackie / Apr 26 2009 7:01 am

    You certainly have quite a few options open to you. When you envision yourself in each of these scenarios years from now, in which are you most happy?

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