Learning to Teach ☀️

A girl celebrating learning in front of a laptop

Photo from Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I want to tell you a story of full circle


In 2015, I got a job out of college. I was not very happy about it, I was not sad about it either. I wasn't excited about it to put it fair and square. Probably because I didn't study at all to get it. I think the highlight of the interview, which got me in, was when I told the interviewer that I had tried to create a font out of using Processing Programming Language, to be used on the home page of our college's literary magazine.

I started the job in Bangalore on June 1st, 2015. The new joinees had to go through a 6 months training. Long story short, the first 2-3 months I was scared of a lot of things. But I was most scared about the fact that I was having a very hard time to understand what was being taught. Our instructor was a nice chap. But learning from him didn't excite, didn't open the possibilities of what we could do with code.

I remember, towards the end of 3rd month, I was so frustrated that I had decided to pack up and go back home and figure out what to do next. Fortunately, my good friend Anusheel stayed late in office with me that night and broke down the CSS for me in a way instructor hadn't been able to. I stayed, persisted. Then slowly I started liking it. The buzz of the tech world, new cool things coming out every week.

I started looking forward to going home and reading about stuff. I read that a new code text editor – atom – had come. Made by folks at Github, written in web technologies, it was fascinating to download and use it. When Google's material design spec came out in 2015, I thought Google had invented an optical mobile technology which would help developers make user interfaces which would actually interact with a brief vertical 3D space between the bottom and the surface of a mobile screen.


But that is all I did for a long time — marvel at what people built, without trying to make anything of my own.

Then I took a course on full stack development on Coursera. It was a free specialisation with 5 courses which used Meteor framework to make a fully functional web application. It's the only set of courses I've finished on Coursera. I got a taste of how to build things end to end. Up until then, in the training, we had only been picking things up one at a time, mostly syntax. Learning syntax in any language is the most boring and cumbersome but necessary thing to do. When you are a beginner, it gets boring very quickly. It also takes a lot of time to debug when you make a typo. You know how it goes…

So anway. Slowly I started learning a lot – something I had left after 12th grade. Overtime, I also started finding joy in sharing the things that I discovered and learnt.

Fast forward to today, lately I have doing two things:

  1. Mentoring beginners online for money, since people actually are up for giving good money for really good educators. They want to understand things propertly and not just bear having to learn half heartedly.

    It really struck a chord of the past. While I taught I'd remember the style of teaching which didn't work for me. And I improvize and give practical examples to people to help them understand things in depth. I also repeat appropriately so that what I teach retains.

  2. I have doing a lot of learning myself. I've started going knee deep into understanding TypeScript properly. The best way? To learn to teach. A couple of days ago, I gave a pretty intensive but gentle introduction to TypeScript to my team, because we are using TypeScript in the project I'm working on. But nobody in the team is completely ramped up with TypeScript yet. So I took the responsibility to bring everyone up to speed.

What I found is that when you learn to teach, you learn in a way you would never forget. That's why many instructors are go good when they teach. When I was a teenager and learnt advance mathematics and physics to solve complex academic problems, I could have never imagined that the biggest motivator to learn would be to teach it to others. And in the process

  1. You get solid foundations
  2. Now that you have learnt all that, you can focus on building stuff with it, instead of struggling to understand it anymore.

From a person who was afraid that he was understanding nothing of what was being taught to helping others learn, I've come a long way.

In the last one and a half months, I've mentored a lot of people who are undergoing one or the other bootcamps all around the world, mostly in the US. And you wouldn't believe me if I told you, that people are scared when they see such daunting tasks being thrown away at them. Many bootcamps aren't doing a very good job. The fact that their students are turning online to people like me to clear their doubts instead of their teachers, is a testament to the broken curriculums.

You make a difference in helping people like these understand something. You find purpose and peace. It's a form of service — helping people learn in a skillful understanding way which doesn't seem mammoth and daunting, which in turn helps ease their anxiety and tension. I've been fortunate enough to have not quit and persist to be able to be of help to people like this. And I hope I continue to learn, build and teach.

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