Nerdguy has been running a video game programming camp for Molly and Grace all weekend. Every summer he likes to teach Molly something in-depth related to programming, and she soaks it up as one of our girls who code. She did programming at school this year, which was great to see happening in the classroom, but she already knew everything about that language and found it incredibly boring. Luckily her teacher let her choose a different language to explore as a part of her enrichment curriculum.
Having a teacher who is encouraging can make all the difference…especially in the STEM areas that have been traditionally lacking in female representation. Luckily Molly has never let that stop her, but it never hurts to have the encouragement coming from all angles. She competed in a cubing competition this year where there were maybe three other girls in a gym full of boys. But she was just excited to talk to people who speak her language, no matter what their gender. She was pretty excited to have another girl in her tech camp this year, but she disappeared early on, leaving Molly to represent for yet another year.
Grace joined the coding club at school this year, and loves to play Minecraft, but she didn’t stick around for much of Camp Daddy. He got her attention with squirrels and unicorns, but then an actual squirrel seemed more appealing (we watched Over the Hedge).
I had a teacher in grade 12 for computer science who would have made an excellent cave man. If cave men wore sweater vests and knew how to program in Pascal, that is. He managed to suck every bit of computer joy I had right out of me that year. First by his dry teaching and hostile resting beard. And then his declaration about computers not being for girls, which made Fred Flintstone seem progressive.
I’m not sure if I really decided not to go the computer route because of that class or if I was using that as an excuse without realizing it. I started out on a promising path at the ripe old age of five when my dad brought home the TRS-80 computer from Radio Shack and his Daisy Wheel printer. I would hang out in the basement with him answering math and spelling questions on the programs he loaded on the computer. We take those programs for granted now, but back then our iPads were the Speak ’n Spell and The Little Professor. The computer kept me engaged and had me hooked from an early age.
My dad even brought his whole computer set-up into my class for show and tell because no one really had computers in their houses, save for the odd Commodore 64, then and we certainly didn’t have one in our classroom. This was the age of chalkboards and ditto-sniffing. I may have been high on purple ink, but I’m pretty sure the entire class got frostbite from our extreme coolness. Or possibly CRT radiation. The eighties were a confusing time.
My first computer class was in grade ten and that teacher hated me too, but for very different reasons. I kicked ass. I don’t want to brag, but I’m pretty sure I saw a scout from IBM peeking in the window. Okay maybe it was just that flasher that was always lurking in the park behind our school. We’ll never know. But I was amazing in that class, and in the grade eleven computer class. I also rocked my math classes and if I didn’t go to high school with such freaking genius curve-wreckers I’m pretty sure they would have bronzed my calculator or named a wing of the school after me. The teacher hated me because, in his words, “You’re distracting everyone but I can’t even yell at you because you’re getting 100% and you’re already done your work!” He pretended not to notice when I had to “go to the bathroom” but he would see me cross through the courtyard below to the cafeteria to play asshole (that’s a card game…just in case you’re still thinking about that flasher or something) with my friends for 20-minutes. He was just glad to have me out of his hair. And speaking of hair…he got revenge when he pointed out my first few grey hairs to the class as he was walking the aisles. I think he was just excited that I was making us both age on an accelerated schedule.
So many years, and many more grey hairs…so so many, later it makes me happy to see my daughter’s eyes bright with enthusiasm as she bonds with her own dad over the computer. She and I both grew up with brilliant fathers who know girls can do anything they want to do. I just hope she keeps listening to hers, and ignores bitter men in ugly sweater vests.