Volunteer to teach people to code

I volunteered a couple of weeks back and offered to teach whoever is interested to learn to code. It takes place in my local library, which fortunately for me, is very close to both where I live and work. Today, I just had my first session. This is the first time I'm doing something like this, though I'd share my experience and learnings. In case anyone is thinking of doing something similar.

How to get started?

I had this idea of setting something up and teaching people to code but never took it to the next stage. Luckily for me, someone asked on Nextdoor (a social network website for local communities), and I offered to help and volunteer.

Surprisingly, getting it all set up and running were so easy from my point of view. Fiona from the local council emailed me a simple form to fill in, then offered me a number of locations for me to choose from. Other people sorted out the location and finding people who were interested. I didn't have to a thing, apart from going to the library for a quick interview and hand in my form. Before I knew it, it was ready to go!

I am a bit nervous about speaking in front of a lot of people, so I was hoping for a small group. The smaller the better, even if it was just 1 person I would have been happy. Apparently, 20+ people signed up but 18 people turned up today, which is still a huge number of people in my opinion.

The conclusion is that there is so much support around volunteers, it can't be easier to get involved and give something back to the community. Everyone is super friendly, emailing to see how I was feeling after today's session and etc. To be honest, I don't think I worked anywhere where I felt so cared for, haha!

My advice is don't be like me, and wait for something to fall on my lap, which is not a healthy habit for many reasons. If you are interested in volunteering just go for it, I mean what's the worst that can happen?

Learning from each other

Yes, I volunteered to help others. But I know my public speaking ability is shocking, and lack a lot of experience. So I knew there'll be many learning opportunities for me when I signed up for this. Just in the span of 40 minutes, I already noticed things that I wasn't doing very well.

  • When we were waiting for people to come, I didn't immediately start a conversation, the room was silent and awkward. When I realised this, even before the session started, I went around the room and asked people some simple questions like "why they were here" and "what are their coding skills level" to get a conversation going.
  • I wrote down notes, fairly detailed notes as well. But I didn't even get to look at them, because there's 18 people staring (okay, just looking) at me at all time. I completely forgot to check my laptop. Stuff I planned to ask, I forgot. Not mentioning things I didn't even think of asking, like asking people for their email address so I could contact them about the next session! But luckily I had people supporting me, they were clearly way more experience at this.
  • At the start, I keep focusing on one side of the room, it must have been quite obvious for other people. But I only realised after 10 - 20 minutes, so for the rest of the session, I forced my self to look around a bit more and not look at any one place for too long.
  • Going back to my public speaking point, I noticed myself repeating myself and losing track of the overall direction of the conversation. At one point I had no idea what I need to say or ask, but some BS skills came into play and just kept on going.
  • The attendees asked a lot of good and useful questions, which not only reminded what I planned to say but also gave me an opportunity to pause and think. So I kept on asking them if they had more questions :D

Hold your ground?

Today, I went in thinking I'm going to run these sessions once every two weeks because I'm worried it will suck up too much of my personal time. But after seeing people's desire to learn, I felt I should try and do more, and ended up committing to weekly sessions. I don't know if this is good or bad, I think I'm happy with my decision. But if I knew I couldn't afford to do weekly sessions, then I hope in that situation I would have held my ground and stuck with what I planned.

Happiness

A final point, maybe even the most important point. I was so hyped after today's session, especially, with people coming to talk to me after asking me a question and saying thank you. Biologically, helping others makes us feel good. So if you want some more happiness, this isn't a bad way of getting some dopamine hits!