That uncomfortable feeling we all experience at some point in our lives...
It was time for some continuing education and I couldn’t wait to attend a workshop on coding. I kept hearing the buzz about how coding was the new “what’s in” for education. I was told “Kids love coding! There are careers in coding!” I also heard that data analysis was one of the most needed careers and the salary for an analyst could be six figures. I was intrigued.
I remember the morning so well. As I drank my cup of tea, my co-worker, an instructional coach and experienced coder, showed so much enthusiasm for what was to come that her excitement was infectious. She was ready to learn more about coding and to bring that new knowledge and skill back to our students. The possibility of our students finding a true interest in this exciting career was motivation for both of us.
At the workshop, we sat with a few other educators we knew from various schools. They all seemed excited to be part of this class also. As class began, the instructor asked for a show of hands for those educators who had worked with coding in the past. The response was about half and half. I had absolutely no experience.
The instructor began the class immediately, not wasting any time as we would have to learn eight units of material in just three days. She began with some terminology but quickly moved right into coding. I could feel my excitement turn to uncertainty and nervousness. She was talking about terms I had never heard before. Then, without much conversation, we dove right into the coding exercises and we were to copy what she displayed. As she instructed us what to type next, I started to feel lost and to feel like I was in the wrong class. I had thought this class was for beginners, but it seemed more like an intermediate class. What was I doing there? I was still trying to understand the terminology while she was on to actually writing code. I kept thinking to myself “what the heck is coding and what is the purpose of it?” To be honest, I really didn’t get it and my comfort level declined quickly.
As I looked around the room, I could pick out educators that were struggling as much as me. It was obvious, especially as one was looking like he wanted to pull his hair out. Some showed their frustrations through comments in class. Sound familiar, educators? This made me think about my students. Do they feel like this in class? Do they get this lost while I am teaching? Do they dread coming to class? I thought of the quiet students and those students who act up once in a while – is that their way of telling me they aren’t comfortable because they don’t understand the concept? I was so fortunate to have my colleague sitting next to me, as she took time with me and helped me to understand. But that uneasy feeling never left for the entire conference.
I will never forget the feeling I had the entire three days. I came back to my classroom and sat in front of my students and told them of my experiences and how I felt. I could tell they felt reassured, knowing that things don’t always come easily for me and that I now understood how some of them felt. But I also wanted them to know, I didn’t give up. I wanted to learn so I could bring this new knowledge back to them. They, not even being there, kept me motivated and asking questions. I was determined to learn and not afraid to admit I didn’t understand. The more questions I asked, the more it helped others too.
They saw I was human! What an incredible learning experience this turned out to be for me. It was a new connection to my students.