The Difference Between Teaching and Teacher, Programming and Programmer

There are many professions, where the realities of the job get in the way of the core activity. One such profession is teaching. Teaching children can of course be a tiring and thankless experience, but it can also be fun and rewarding. Most teachers got into teaching because they found they enjoyed it. But many are put off (and leave teaching) by the realities of teaching: the burdensome admin, the long hours, the obsession with inspections and league tables, the curriculum changes and so on. Teaching, and being a teacher, diverge in practice.

This article by Robert Smith discusses the recent code.org video which enthuses about programming. Smith dislikes the video, thinking that is selling a false dream of what it is like to be a programmer. He says:

Do I like getting to work, at the latest, 10am, and coming home, at the earliest, 7pm? No. Programming jobs are often not “clock in, clock out” jobs. There is an underlying expectation to work longer hours to get things done… And this pattern isn’t common with just me, it’s true with many programmers.

What he is complaining about here is not programming, it’s the realities of being a programmer. (Games programming used to be particularly notorious for these sorts of long hours and bad working conditions.) So, should we discourage people from taking up interesting activities, like teaching or programming, because of the reality of the job? Or do we encourage everyone to do what they love and hope that the practicalities of the jobs will improve?

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