Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Teach a gal (or guy) to fish

One of the more rewarding parts about being a not-even-slightly renowned web developer is getting to share that skill.  For the past few months, I’ve been an instructor with the organization Girl Develop It Cincinnati.  I’ve been teaching classes of mostly women intro courses in HTML/CSS and JavaScript/jQuery.  It’s been awesome as hell.

I got into it through this wild child named Erin Kidwell, who runs the chapter here in Cincy.  She could see that I was loudmouthed, boastful, and cocky. Or, perfectly suited for molding young minds in the fine art of web dev.  I TA'd for another instructor first, then she took the muzzle off me and I went at it.

What they get, those lucky ducks.

Web development is a tough nut to crack. And if you’re a women, it’s a tougher nut.  I’m not going to tiptoe around the fact that we do sort of run a boys club.  No one thinks it’s because we don’t want women around, it’s just seen as 'a guy thing' for the most part.  I don’t know why that is.  I could speculate, but I don’t feel like it.  That is also not to say that there aren’t plenty of female engineers, programmers, coders, and widget-wielders.  There are.  But that number pales in comparison to how many dudes are in the club. It’s a little musky in here, is all I can say.

Anyway, the benefit comes in a couple of ways.  One, it’s inclusive of women. It gets them into a place where they can ask questions, learn in their own style, and be surrounded for the most part by other women doing the same thing. From my own limited perspective, this works great for women. They are great collaborators and sharers.

Two, it’s cheap as shit.  $80 for four 2-hour sessions and one supplemental session on a Sunday morning.  Plus, as long as you’re a student you can email me any time with questions that I try to answer as promptly as possible.

Three, it’s just a great way to get out of the house, get out of the ordinary, and do something fun and useful. Tons of the gals tell me they are in the class to beef up their resume, or to work on their blog, or to help with the company website, or they are designers looking to move to the web.  It’s great. They are taking the reins.

Note: I have no idea what women are thinking about anything.

What I get out of all this

From my experience, teaching is ironically the best learning tool.  You might think you need to be an expert in the field to be a great teacher, and I think the converse is true.  As someone who spends 95% of my time on back-end web dev, teaching specifically for the front-end has taught me a ton.  I have to actually think about how and why something works well enough to be able to explain it to complete novices.

It’s not any easier for me to explain python to a beginner than it is to explain some CSS that I just learned that same day.  Actually, with new concepts still fresh in my mind, it’s a bit easier to verbalize.  Make sense? No? Good!

It's also a great social tool.  I really believe that we build our lives on experiences, meeting new people, and learning new crap.  That's exactly what this is.  I learn every week from these gals. I meet people with different perspectives, lives, views, hairstyles, etc. It's rad.

All in all, teaching has been a great thing for me.  I recommend anyone and everyone with the inclination to be the center of attention for a couple of hours at a time to stand up there and teach some people about web dev.  There’s been a huge push for people to learn programming, and for most people it’s a lot easier to learn in an interactive environment than it is to learn on their computer in their basement.  I don’t know if that’s actually statistically true, but it sounds accurate.

So, get your ass out there and teach.  Or, if you need to learn, get your ass out there and learn.  Here are some links to help you get started:

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