I have whined about term 2 on this blog before. Probably every year since I started teaching in fact, but I’m a little afraid to go back and check. It’s true that it’s a particularly brutal term. We are marking assignments and exams, writing reports (I have 75 of them to write, and to try to make as personal, meaningful, and constructive as possible. My full time colleagues could have twice that.), and preparing classes for semester 2, which starts on Monday, while we’re still finishing with semester 1. Once we’ve finished writing our own reports we will proof read each other’s, while teaching our normal class load and trying to hit all of the deadlines. It’s winter, we’re all tired, and workloads are just insane, as always.
For me, this term has been even bigger as I wrap my head around a new Head of Learning role, and have the opportunity to make some meaningful changes. I only finished my marking yesterday (apart from a few stragglers), I’ve still got most of my reports to write, and I’m painfully aware of how much I need to get done in the next two weeks, and over school holidays.
And, to be honest, I’m exhausted. When I collapse into bed at night I pass out almost instantaneously. I have nothing left in the tank, and a long, long way still to drive.
Which is why I was wondering whether I need to seek psychological help to understand why I organised a hackathon for today. This is something I don’t have to do. My friend & colleague Victor Rajewski started them early last year, and we have kept them running ever since. We don’t get time in lieu, or any pay, for giving up our Saturday. We have too much work to do to make it a reasonable use of time at this point.
And yet… and yet… despite my exhaustion, despite all of the desperate claims on my time, it was, as always, totally worth it. Three of my alumni showed up to help and to play – two of them graduated in 2012, so they haven’t been my students since 2011, but they still come back and help. The other graduated in 2013. And despite the age range – the youngest attendee was my 10 year old daughter, the oldest was me at 45 – there was no hierarchy. People were sharing skills, taking interest in each other’s projects, and playing games together.
There was hardware hacking, software hacking, and, yes, pizza (some stereotypes exist for a reason). We even got our maker space designed (thanks Jess!). There was the most amazing spirit of collaboration and camaraderie. Some of the year 12s ran workshops (thanks Dylan & Alex!), teaching some practical web skills and some embedded systems stuff.
It’s hard to describe how happy it made me to see people showing up and getting stuck into it. The hackathons aren’t perfect – we could probably use a little more structure and a little less gameplay – but they’re so much fun.
Nobody had to do this. We didn’t have to run it. The students didn’t have to come. The alumni certainly didn’t have to turn up (or collect the pizza – thanks Peter!). But everybody came together to share an interest in tech and maybe pick up some new skills.
I’m so tired. I’ll be spending my Sunday and probably most evenings next week finishing my reports, because I couldn’t do them today. But I wouldn’t have missed today for anything.