Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Embracing your Inner Geek!

When someone's computer breaks down in school, they don't call the computer teacher--they call me. I can program in BASIC (extra points if you know what the acronym BASIC stands for), I have a six digit ICQ number, and my first modem was a 300 baud job from Radio Shack which I used before the world wide web was invented (more extra points if you know the difference between baud and bps).

The point is, I'm a geek. A nerd. Always have been and always will be. I'm proud of my collection of antique expansion cards and the fact that I know the quadratic equation even though I don't teach math. So you can imagine how disturbed I was to read that there are people out there--including genuine nerds themselves--who want to get rid of the terms nerd and geek. They feel these terms have a negative connotation and that they hold kids back from wanting to become mathematicians and scientists.

When I read that, I nearly spilled the mechanical pencils from my pocket protector. Because of my geekhood, I now have a job I love and from which I can retire in a few years to pursue other endeavors if I so choose. Meanwhile, the kids who pulled my BVDs over my head in seventh grade are now stocking the shelves at the Dairy Barn while I'm hitting the top salary step.

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against manual labor, and I believe all work has value. But being geeky gave me choices in life. I don't have to stock shelves, and I play with computers for fun instead of for a living. I can choose to retire or keep going. I'd bet you anything that the average annual salary of all the geeks you knew in high school is at least double that of the jocks and cheerleaders.

Get rid of nerd and geek because they're not cool words? Let's MAKE them cool words! Let's make dressing in Ecko clothing mandatory in public schools and prohibit the wearing of Pi tee shirts except on dress down days! Let's start talking about how great Lady Gaga is and before you know it, they'll be listening to Mozart! Let's ban Shakespeare because of all the sexual innuendo and the kids will be sneaking copies of Richard III in their bookbags!

Let's make geek the new black! Pull your waistband up to your nipples! And when we're done, we can klhdejihe fkieiu efiwoinf!

Oops...sorry about that. The tape that was holding my glasses together broke.

1 comment:

ed notes online said...

Talk about geeks. The last 20 years of my career is a lesson in geekdom.

I got my first Apple in my classroom in the early 80's and I started fooling around with BASIC - what magic to put in some coordinates with a number for a color and make a pixel light up on a screen. The kids were mesmerized, as I was. Then came LOGO and the turtle, which became the basis of the robotics stuff I'm involved in today. We used to program nursery rhymes by animating Humpty Dumpty and having all the kings men march in to try to put Humpty together again.

In 1984 I and another teaching buddy ended up in a masters program in computer science at Brooklyn College where we met another NYC teacher and became the 3 nerd musketeers, studying PLI, Pascal, Lisp and some C. We would spend hours arguing over the design of a program and going over hundreds of lines of code. (We caught the last of the punchcard era.)

We all ended up teaching at the college as adjuncts and my friend ended up running the ATS system at the BOE with 30 people working under him. They all got consultant fees and he only wanted his teacher salary so he could retire in peace. He got the job because for once someone realized that an experienced teacher could actually understand the real needs of a school. How much fun for an elementary school teacher?

When I finished my masters in '87 I started putting together a computer room at my school one computer at a time - old apples and the brand new at the time Apple GS. Then the Macs. I finished up my career as a project smart staff developer where I ran around the district plugging in printers and getting teachers online and teaching them what email was. So, still a geek and nerd and proud of it.