What Teaching Taught Me

January 10th, 2017 • life

Last January I began teaching part-time at a nearby college. Teaching web design was something I had been considering for the past few years. I would occasionally scan the college job boards with very little luck. Part-time opportunities were far and few between as I knew it wasn’t something I wanted to pursue full-time. Eventually an opportunity presented itself and I jumped at it ecstatically.

If you knew me 10 years ago you would have laughed at the idea of me standing in front of a classroom teaching. I was timid and had a severe fear of public speaking. Thankfully I overcame that fear by throwing myself into several speaking opportunities over the years, and surprisingly it got easier (no, really).

The thought of teaching meant a lot to me because I was such a lost student. I felt unsure of my talents and myself and stumbled my way to where I am now. Teaching made me see a small bit of those same fears in most of my students. Uncertainty and self-defeat at it’s finest.

Another pull was that I never went to college to code. I learned the majority of my web development skills on my own. I thought if I could find simpler ways to deconstruct the complex and overly technical I’d have a pretty good chance of winning some students over. I wanted to make learning code less intimidating and while I was at it, win over some females to even out the gender ratio.

Once I kicked off the year, teaching opened my eyes to the emotional component that comes along with it. Throughout any given semester you’re navigating life with them. They’re still figuring it all out, while trying to balance school and their personal lives. Some are first time mothers or have a significant other that’s terminally ill. In those moments you’re helpless. An extension on their assignment isn’t going to fix their problems. That’s when you realize we’re human and sometimes people are going through heartbreakingly sad experiences that you know nothing about. When a student is falling behind, it’s easier to assume they’re lazily disengaged.

Besides the emotional, there’s also the intimidation factor. Having 20 students stare at you week after week hoping you won’t put them to sleep is a lot of pressure. Teaching was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my career. Why? Just take a moment and think about how you treated your teachers… EXACTLY.

Teaching also reminded me of the importance of establishing confidence amongst your students. I think it was one of the most valuable take-aways I took while I was in college. I had a lot of teachers discourage me and I’ve heard similar stories amongst friends. A good teacher should be aiming to combat that. Your role should be focused on lifting them up not putting them down. There’s hidden potential in everyone, and it’s your job as a teacher to find that sparkle that they don’t see in themselves. If there’s anything I hope I left on my students it is that good design takes time. A lot of time.

School is level 1 of level 100. It’s a phase but it’s not your fate. It does not promise success.

Although I’m no longer teaching I hope to return to it someday. Hats off to the full-timers. Teaching is a lot of work.