But first, let me introduce myself. My name is Julien, I am 31 years old and I work as a freelance developer in Paris.
In 2016, I’ve been offered a part-time teaching position at the University I studied in. To be more specific, it is a software design and programming position. A 3-hour block per week where I intervene as a professional software engineer.
At first, the offer intimidated me. It was only 3 years since I graduated and I was asking myself several questions :
- Am I legit?
- Do I have the required experience?
- Will I have the required authority?
- Will I dare to speak in front of 25 students?
- What if I don’t know the answer to a student’s question?
Nevertheless, I learnt from my previous experiences to embrace challenges. Especially on subjects I’d never done before. That’s why I decided to accept the offer.
What have I learnt?
I must admit that I felt my legs shaking for the first lesson. But surprisingly, it went away after the first 15 minutes. The students were listening to me as they were thriving to learn real-world cases. For once they were not given only theoretical exercises.
I like this position because the university gives me a total freedom on how and what to teach. I give my students projects that require architecture and development skills during the whole scholar year. I assist them in doing it, and most of their questions are basic ones. Do not mistake yourself… they are the hardest ones to answer!
This is the part I want to emphasis. Teaching implies you to deeply understand what you are trying to explain. I remember this one time where I was teaching one of my students how REST APIs work. I saw in her eyes that she didn’t get it. I tried to explain it with a different approach, still these cluelessness eyes. The reality is that I had not deeply understood it myself, and it was hard to admit it.
So I told her I was going to read articles to better understand it. It was a hard but yet necessary step to take. I felt that I failed her at first. Next week came, and this time I drew on the board schemas. Her eyes widened : “Ahhhh! I get it”. This is the best feeling in the world! It is at this exact moment I realized that a teacher should not feel ashamed of not knowing something. It released me from the pressure I put on myself.
Is teaching made for everyone?
I would like to answer that it is, still it requires specific abilities and personal traits. But they’re not the ones you’d think of. To me, you only need two. The first one is the willingness to improve yourself in the subject you want to teach. You need to understand deeply what you want to teach, this means that you’ll have to read articles, experiment and synthesize what you’ve been learning. Above all, I would say that having experienced the subject yourself is the key. Student’s won’t understand if you haven’t.
The second one is to have empathy. I get pleasure from proving wrong to students who think they can’t do their project because, usually because they’re scared. To me, teaching is taking other’s problems and making them your own. I strive to teach them technics on how to resolve problems. This is the hardest part to teach. The solution to the problem doesn’t matter.
Teaching is the most satisfying and yet the hardest thing I’ve done in my carrier so far, still I enjoy every hour of it. I encourage you to try it as it will change the way you learn. You will become better at what you do every day. You will also improve your communication skills and ability to understand how others think.
So now, what still holds you back from teaching?