Prior to working on the web, I was a substitute teacher in the U.S. and also an ESL teacher in South Korea. The experiences I had, particularly as a recent grad in the midst of The Great Recession, helped sharpen my focus to social inequalities within my own country, and prompted a desire to be a force for changing it within. Upon landing my first job in software, I began to seek out opportunities in my community, and over the next couple years I volunteered at several EdTech nonprofits aimed at teaching programming classes to a variety of learners, from professionals looking for a career change to elementary students learning about prototyping through paper airplanes and Scratch lessons. Currently, I volunteer at ScriptEd, a NYC-based non-profit that teaches programming classes in under-resourced schools. I love it, and teaching at ScriptEd has allowed me to meet an incredible community, watch a phenomenal group of students grow, and enriched my own practice as a software developer.
So first, lets talk community. These people ARE AMAZING! I have rarely met such a great, tight-knit group of like-minded people within the tech industry focused on helping others, and over this past school year, I’ve grown to admire and respect not only my own co-teachers (Andrew, Greg, Jeff, Eliza) but the community at large: the massive support within Slack channels, the willingness to address difficult issues in teacher trainings, and the sheer consistency and time spent in their own volunteering schedules. It’s nothing short of admirable and within ScriptEd, this notion is abundantly evident.
With that said, the students are 100% the best part of volunteering. Regardless of what day I’ve had at work, I’m always happy to come to class. The enthusiasm and energy that students give is contagious, and becomes reflected in the classes themselves, from lesson planning to the student-teacher dynamic during class. Teaching at ScriptEd gives me a front row seat to those “light bulb moments” where a student grasps a concept or finds a solution to a problem he/she has been having. From this school year, I’ve gotten to see our students’ transition into empowered beginning programmers who may not know the answer but have the desire and tenacity to find out for themselves. It’s been so rewarding to look through recent projects and find more and more implementations that weren’t taught but learned on their own. Sure, that’s something small, but it’s those small progressions that tell us our work as volunteers is building upon itself, and creating a foundation for something greater in each student. I find a lot of happiness in that.
We’ve probably all heard it before: if you really want to learn something, find a way to teach it. Teaching with ScriptEd has allowed me to question my own processes and think a bit more in depth about subjects that I had once taken at face value and moved on without investigating further. It also has helped tremendously in switching up HOW I explain something, as each student learns differently and classroom scenarios provide plenty of opportunities to relate programming concepts to things students already understand, like functions with parameters as recipes with ingredients, or explaining array values and indexes like cars and parking spaces (ex: the cars may change, but the parking space stays the same). Being able to break down technical concepts into something accessible is a powerful skill, and helps me tremendously in working alongside designers, researchers, and project managers. You’d be surprised how much calling
milkshake(chocolate) can help out. ;)
So with all that said, I’ll definitely be teaching next year. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know my students, and have learned so much about my own teaching process. If you’re interested in learning more about ScriptEd, check out their website or see what they’re up to on twitter, or you can always drop a line my way. :)