Why do I do it? Why do I teach coding? It’s a question I’m often asked. I’ve been teaching code for more than 20 years, from structured, formal lectures to groups of students and professionals. Sometimes the setting is more informal, such as during lunch breaks or after work with colleagues. But no matter the setting, the answer is simple: I love teaching code.
There’s a lot to love about teaching code. For one, the more people learn about something, the better and more talented that industry or profession becomes. Also, on a personal level, I find that the better I can explain something, the better I understand it myself. So while I’m teaching, I’m also learning at the same time — and I really enjoy learning.
This love of learning is no doubt due to growing up with a father who was a teacher. My father was also a football and golf coach, so as a kid I was constantly learning something new. I grew up in a world where I was always trying to get better at whatever I was working on.
I guess I have a lot of my father in me, because when I started my career in coding, I took exception to the silos that existed then among developers. Coders didn’t want to share their knowledge because they were afraid that another developer would take advantage of the information — and take their job.
That always seemed like the wrong way to work. To me, sharing knowledge and skills is more productive and provides better value for a business. So I would take extra time at lunch or after work to explain new concepts that would benefit the team and my co-workers. Those sessions fostered a culture of open learning in the workplace and in a culture of open learning, everybody writes better code.
I believe that the ability to write code is a literacy level. The more people we have above that literacy level, the better we will be able to solve problems. Technology is accelerating at an incredible rate, and right now we’re creating problems faster than we can solve them. So for many years my passion has been to empower people to solve problems through creative coding.
Teaching code also makes me a better coder. When you’re teaching, you have no control over what students might ask or discover. I keep that in mind when I’m preparing a lesson. I don’t just focus on understanding a particular skill; I need to completely understand the field of technology related to that skill. Sometimes, I don’t know the answer to a question, but I’ve learned to not only be comfortable with challenges, but to look forward to them. When I do figure out the answer to a question, I’ve not only enhanced the knowledge of my students, but my own knowledge as well. As I said, I love learning.
Tom Wilson, JRS Coding School