District Administration - March 2008 - (Page 62)
SPEAKING OUT • Gary Stager Please Say Thank You The time is now to thank your mentors and heroes. I FIRST LEARNED TO PROGRAM computers in junior high school, circa 1976. As a freshman I began hanging out in a cramped unﬁnished room in the back corner of the large high school. The space more resembled a sci-ﬁ cave than a classroom. It was Henry Petersen’s oﬃce and the home of an HP mainframe computer. Petersen was the visionary math educator who brought computing to Wayne (N.J.) Public Schools in the early 1960s. Other districts that paid for access to our timeshare system ﬁnanced the gear. My interest in computing and budding talent as a programmer earned me a place among a handful of kids trusted with running the mainframe. We had access to all usernames and passwords because we also created the accounts. We backed up the magnetic tape drives. And Petersen’s secretary would graciously take messages for us when we gave out the oﬃce phone number as if it were our own. It was not uncommon for us to stay and tinker with the computer late into the night. I remember being told, “have fun, lock up when you’re done,” as one of the last adults left the high school. Coincidence As the microcomputer age dawned, Petersen created and led a nonproﬁt cooperative of New Jersey school districts interested in using computers in the classroom. In 1983, he called and oﬀered me a job. His organization was oﬀering a 12-week Logo programming course for educators, at a time when people would actually attend such professional development workshops voluntarily. The attendees complained that the workshop teacher was going too gerly traded my position as teacher to be his student. We met one night after class. We were both named Gary. He was a professor at Rutgers. I was a sophomore at Rutgers early in my seven-and-a-half-year undergraduate career. Greenberg suggested that I enroll in his course — something like “Creative Arts and Education.” It was essentially a Logo programming course with meta-discussions about learning, creativity and cognition. We had to purchase our own copy of Apple Logo, and our homework assignments typically required more than eight hours of work. Greenberg mocked my programming style and rid me of my dependence on global variables. I never worked so hard before in any academic context. However, the course was exhilarating and I eagerly embraced each challenge. He did not suﬀer fools gladly and was frustrated by the part-time nature of so many Rutgers graduate students. At the end of the ﬁrst course he suggested that most of my 45 classmates not take subsequent courses, leaving a delightful six or eight students. He invited me to take two more courses before he left Rutgers for Northwestern and signed my schedule card, enabling me to take three doctorallevel courses as an undergraduate. Inspiration Greenberg’s kindness, inspiration, talent and faith in me, like that of Petersen, formed the foundation for my entire adult life. I learned about my capacity. I formalized my programming knowledge. I became a teacher educator and a member of the Logo community. Seymour Papert and other remarkable educators became He signed my schedule card, enabling me to take three doctoral-level courses as an undergraduate. fast and losing them in the dust, and Petersen acknowledged that discomfort by arranging to oﬀer a slower class to run simultaneously. I would teach that course, the ﬁrst time I ever taught teachers. Two people volunteered to move to my more kind and gentler class. Both were school secretaries. This was also a time when school secretaries would enroll in Logo workshops! I would introduce a new concept and then give my “class” some time to experiment. During that time I would peek around the corner and watch what the “scary” teacher next door was doing. He was magniﬁcent. I would have ea- 62 March 2008 District Administration
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration - March 2008
District Administration - March 2008
Inside the Law
Crafting Strategic Plans
Social Studies: Is it History?
District Buying Power: Spending on Construction and Renovation
How Well Does This Web Site Work?
Calendar of Events
Understanding the Times
District Administration - March 2008