“I never want to become a teacher.” — 20 year old me.
I stood at a crossroads as a junior in college. Organic Chemistry had destroyed any hope I had of going to medical school. I had declared Biology as my major, but I began to have second thoughts. I fell back on the thing I was good at, which was Mathematics. Still, I wasn’t sure what I would do with that degree.
I thought about becoming a teacher, but the more I thought about it the more I didn’t want to do it. I thought I would be good at teaching. I might have grown to enjoy it. But, I was pretty sure it would drive me insane. I didn’t want to deal with misbehaving students. I didn’t want to deal with school politics. I wanted something more hands on.
I immediately said yes. As I tell my students, I have a problem saying no. There were reasons for me to turn it down. I have many side projects that need to get done. But, I wanted to help out a friend and it was a good opportunity to give back to the tech community. Yeah, it’d be 20 more hours per week, but it’s only for 3 months, right?
I started by putting a daily schedule together. I taught twice during the week at night, so I went to the gym in the mornings. I set aside some time on nights I didn’t teach to work on side projects or rest. When class was over, I left to make sure I got enough rest for the next day. I started thinking about the topics we’d cover and what my approach would be.
It wasn’t easy adjusting to the schedule, but I pulled it off. I treated it as another job and made sure to keep my day job and teaching separate. I started losing weight because of my time at the gym. I made sure to get enough rest so I could make it through another day. It all worked out pretty well. During the first 8 weeks, I skipped one day at the gym.
But then something happened. I’m not sure I can pinpoint the exact cause. I think it was one night after teaching algorithms. I told some students that I found discrete math interesting. I recalled a graph algorithm my boss used to schedule our hours. I ended up staying about 2 hours after class talking.
It started to become more than a job. I began to care about my students. I always wanted to help them with their projects and understand the material. But, as I got to know them better, I became invested in their success. I tried to give advice and shared my observations of the tech industry in Hawaii. I told tales of how I succeeded and failed. I empathized with each of the students. It was a lot of fun.
Sure, there were times where things got tough. Coming up with curriculum was difficult. Trying to help 8 students with 8 different projects is a challenge. I didn’t get to all the topics I wanted to cover. The students got to see me mess up on more than one occasion. I hope it demonstrated that even after all that education and experience, it’s okay to make mistakes. I’m still human after all.
Looking back, there were some things we did that worked well for the students.
At the same time, there were things that we could do better.
This was an amazing experience and I’m thankful to Jason, Russel, and Jon for giving me the opportunity. I developed a bond with each student and have become invested in their success. Turning the lights off on the last day was difficult, but we did our best to prepare them for the road ahead.
I can’t wait to see what they do next.
This blog is also cross-posted on Medium.