Why Not Teach?

Have you ever had that feeling that you've truly made a difference? Whether that be for one person, five people or a thousand. That moment when someone you've taught all they know in the last 8 weeks, stands up to present their new business idea and announce they’re leaving their job for it. That moment means everything.

That’s why I not only teach but I aim to be a mentor. For those curious enough to ask the questions, I’ll try my best to give an answer. I am to be the mentor I wish I had.

Why teach?

Most of us can look back in our lives and vividly remember a key piece of advice that helped shape our futures. Family, friends and even mentors can have a huge impact in our lives and our life decisions. Whether that be from an area of interest to a change of career completely.

Growing up, I've had a few people in my life who have helped me become the person I am today. They've helped me make crucial decisions and then supported me along the way. Unfortunately though I never felt like I had a mentor. Especially now as I'm trying to switch careers from development to user experience, I realise just how important role models and mentors are. I teach because I wish I had someone on the inside who can help guide me, who can make me feel like all my efforts are for nothing.

I aim to be the mentor I wish I had.

Why is teaching so important?

It seems obvious to say but without teachers there wouldn't be any education. How else would you be reading this amazingly insightful blog post? While teaching is important, guiding someone who is beginning their journey is just as important as bringing people on yours. While you may think you’re the only one ever who has faced a certain challenge, you’ll always be surprised by the number of nodding heads at the end of your anecdote. The best part of mentoring is always being the one who stands behind your students when they’re falling down and helping them through the tough situations. A couple of my students recently experienced being intimidated in a tech working space.

Being able to say “I've been there, and this is how you deal with it” and “this is how you move forward” is so valuable”*

This is where experience comes in, rather than just knowledge.

Reasons not to teach

This may sound like an odd section, in a blog post encouraging teaching. However I honestly feel like some people teach for the wrong reasons. The first reason I disagree with is “because there’s a skill gap”. There are some jobs where we need to panic as a society if no one is doing them, such as doctors or farmers. But for jobs in the tech industry, there is not going to be a dire emergency if no one is sat at their computer programming the next big app. It honestly just feels like the people “at the top” are pushing for us to join the tech industry because there’s money to be made. That’s not a reason to teach in my mind.

The second aspect I'm not fond of when it comes to teaching, is selling the idea like it’s the only career choice out there. Maybe it’s because I’m the midst of the tech industry, but I never hear anyone discussing how awesome or necessary it is to become a doctor. Likewise, when it comes to teaching people about the the industry, everything seems to revolve around being a programmer. There is so much more to the tech industry than just bashing out lines of code. I guess the reason why I’m expressing this so bluntly, is because I'm in the middle of a career change and it feels like people can’t understand why someone just wouldn't want to be a developer any more.

What is CodeClub?

Code Club is aimed at younger students, in primary school. They provide the material to teach children programming using Scratch. After Scratch, they then have courses for moving onto HTML & CSS and even Python.

I was fortunate enough to have the flexibility and time to run a course, alongside James Thompson. We ran a club for one school term, and despite the odd comment of “Oh, a girl is teaching!” everything went pretty smoothly. What was awesome was seeing the majority of the class being girls, and in fact the most engaged student was a girl. Just like the Always campaign #LikeAGirl highlights, the gender gap comes later.

Working with children offers a whole new insight, with a whole new set of questions. These will include completely irrelevant ones too like, “do you live in the mountains too?” or “feel my sticky fingers”. It’s definitely different especially the younger the class but it’s so valuable.

What is CodeFirst:Girls?

First of all, CodeFirst:Girls deserve a massive shout out for being awesome! As of September 2015, I have now been an instructor for CF:G for a year. A year that I would do all again in a heartbeat. Their mission is to prove to the industry that tech shouldn’t just be a boy’s club. Their passion and their drive to prove so shows in the fact that they’re not just a meet-up. They don’t just gather around tables to discuss the gender diversity issues in tech. They are a social enterprise, now running both free and paid for courses for women across the country. The number of both inspiring applications and success stories are unbelievable and are constantly increasing.

Whilst at ThoughtWorks I ran their advanced Ruby course at Manchester University, teaching alongside Pablo Porto Veloso and Matt Chamberlain. We were an awesome team, full of quick witted lines, wacky photos of horses and astronauts and a lot of laughs. So far during my time in London, I have taught the Summer Intensive on HTML, CSS and Python and the Bootcamp straight after.

My biggest success story most definitely comes from the Boot Camp. The winner was a lady from the Summer Intensive course. Myself and other instructors had taught her right from the beginning. Now at the end of a super fast paced 8 weeks, she stood at the front of the room claiming her prize, proudly sharing her story of what this meant to her. This included quitting her job.

When you give someone the best explanation they’ve had in a long time, they get that a-ha moment after staring at screen for such a long time. That smile, that spark in their eyes showing gratitude, clarity and sheer achievement makes it worth it. When you’ve mentored someone in the space of just 8 weeks, teaching them all they know and they’re about to give up their job to start a company with the idea you’ve helped nurtured, it’s golden.

Those feelings stay with you forever.

STEMNet Ambassadors and Teen Tech

STEMNet is an amazing organisation which helps anyone and everyone to help bridge the gao between education and business. Events and activities like “In the hot seat” where industry professionals are “interviewed” and asked questions by students really offer a personal insight in what it means to be a part of this community.

What is CodingLondon?

Recently I was asked to start a Codecademy meetup on Twitter, by Antonia. Despite having never met Antonia or speaking with her much before starting the event, it was a cause I could rally behind. CodingLondon is an official meetup for Codecademy. Using their online courses we offer a supportive, mentoring community to learn. At the end of each course we’ll run a bonus session demonstrating how to set up an environment and get started on projects!

Originally published at echesters.co.uk on January 8, 2016.

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