I’ve been a student most of my life. First in primary school, then at high school and finally – at university. My professional career as a software developer also started as a series of trainings and learning by making mistakes. This was especially true at the beginning of my career at Kainos, where first few weeks meant spending some time on intensive courses – first in Amsterdam and then at home office. While I was gaining confidence in my skills, mostly coding, I constantly wondered what it would be like to share some of my knowledge with someone else, teaching them what I already knew.
Thankfully I didn’t have to wait too long to get an answer. During lunch the other day I overheard my colleagues talking about having some classes at school – I quickly joined the conversation to get some more information. It turned out that Kainos cooperates with a nearby high school – Zespół Szkół Łączności w Gdańsku im. Obrońców Poczty Polskiej – and a group of employees were teaching basics of coding thanks to Kainos Tech Outreach Initiative. I asked if I could be any help and just a few months later I got invited to join them – next semester of the program was starting soon and volunteers were needed to deliver another round. I thought that’s a great opportunity to give something back to the community and within next few weeks I’ve joined the team and started my first class.
Being a teacher was far more challenging than I expected. We had to create a study plan (due to shortage of time for this project we used existing resources) and apply it on a group of students. Two quite numerous groups in my case – as one colleague couldn’t continue, and I’ve taken on his group. I had classes each weak instead of every two weeks.
I’ve started by teaching basic concepts like variables, types, operations, function etc., creating very simple scripts and with each new program I’ve added new concept. I have focused on not giving direct solutions but rather helping students find the proper path themselves. This was really fascinating – it required a lot of effort to put myself in shoes of somebody that doesn’t have the knowledge yet. What was obvious to me, wasn’t clear to them – that’s why I had to double think what I’m saying and suggesting. I really liked that.
Keeping students motivated and engaged during our classes turned out to be one of the most challenging problems. We’ve faced an issue of decreasing number of people attending the class, which we tried to solve by experimenting with different forms of classes. It helped at first, but problem came back soon afterwards. This time we created anonymous survey with couple of questions about what the students liked or not about the classes and what they would be interested in doing.
As the result we have split people into two new groups – one of them being more advanced where we covered more complexed topic and the second one in which we started with basics all over again. We used online programming platforms as resources. First thecodingame.com for few simple scripts and the codefights.com for the rest.
Unfortunately, after a few weeks problem with lack of student’s attendance came back. With decreasing number of pupils participating in each group, we’ve decided to make another survey which resulted in creating yet another division and new teams. This time we’ve split the class between two topics – web development and algorithms. Because this happened in May we had just few classes with each group, however students seemed to be more satisfied.
As a summary of the school year, we organised a test to check student’s knowledge. We also invited all pupils to visit Kainos Gdansk office – we gave them a tour around our space and organised few presentations to tell them more about what we are doing as a company. We invited representatives from various business units to tell them a bit more about their day to day job. Thanks to that pupils were guided through various career paths that can be taken in IT world. Students actively asked many questions and they seemed genuinely interested in what we offered.
Despite some minor problems, both students and teachers were satisfied with overall Kainos involvement in this education program. We will most probably organise yet another round of programming classes in the next academic year, however their form will have to be adjusted to fit student’s needs more – smaller groups and more projects to work on.
To me it was great experience on what it is like to be a teacher. I had to overcome challenges I’ve never encountered before, I’ve learned a lot. I also realized I didn’t appreciate my school teachers well enough – that’s for sure. If it wasn’t for Kainos I probably wouldn’t have such opportunity. I did my best and I’m more than willing to try even harder next year.