Teaching is thirsty business

Author: Joke De Winter

Code First: Girls logo

Last week I finished teaching the HTML/CSS for Beginners course from Code First: Girls at Loughborough University. It was my first ever stint of teaching. Teaching is hard, teaching code is even harder.

That said, it’s been a great experience, and one I would like to do again. If only to get better and iron out all the bits I think I could have done much better.

Code First: Girls is a not for profit social enterprise with the aim to increase the number of women in tech. They do this by teaching women to code. Simple. They approached me last summer to teach their beginners course at Loughborough. Not having done any teaching before I was a little apprehensive at first. But CF:G is a solid organisation. And teaching would be an opportunity to give something back to the web design community. (Also, it’s very flattering if you get asked to do something like this. How can you not blush and say yes?)

CF:G provide the course curriculum covering HTML, CSS, JavaScript/jQuery, Git and Bootstrap. I am pretty comfortable with HTML and CSS. I know enough of JavaScript and jQuery to use it when I need it. I am not an expert in Git, but I use it and I have not had a merge conflict for at least six months. I was familiar with Bootstrap, but had never used it. I felt confident enough with the course material. If nothing else it would give me an opportunity to learn some things along the way as well.

Teaching a Code First class
Image taken by Amali de Alwis at the Code First: Professionals course in London (March 8, 2017)

It took about ten minutes into the first class for me to realise that teaching is not the same as presenting. Seeing people not paying attention when you present – or even falling asleep – is annoying. Maybe even upsetting. But you ask yourself why that person is present if they’re not interested. With teaching it’s different. Students attend a course because they want to learn something. If you notice one of them looking puzzled or distracted at what you’re saying you get worried. Because it means you’re not doing it right.

The challenge with teaching is to understand something well, before you can teach it. Despite using code every day, I found I had to brush up my skills quite a bit. There are so many things you take for granted and you forget you had to learn them once upon a time too. But this was also the most rewarding part. Helping people to learn something new. Seeing them make the same mistakes you did all those years ago. Explaining the mistakes and give them tips to avoid them in the future.

Teaching is thirsty business. Thirsty in the sense that I want to do it again. But also, it made me so thirsty I could drink an ocean.