Jul. 4th, 2015

A few weeks ago, I applied to Grand Circus as a Javascript instructor. They asked me to fill out a questionnaire about my teaching style. Answering the questions was very thought-provoking, so I'll share my answers with you. Let me know what you think.
You're teaching an 8 week adult bootcamp, from 9am-5pm daily. *
One of your students is very, very overwhelmed. It's week 2 and he doesn't feel that he is understanding the materials or that he will ever catch up to his classmates' progress. What do you do?
One factor in a bootcamp structure is the level of energy-- therefore, the approach of staying afterward for more learning is of limited use after an exhausting day. Very little information is retained when tired. Instead, I would pair students of different achievement levels, to solidify their learning through teaching it to someone else.

I would walk this student through the process of narrowing down each problem he is encountering, until he finds the question behind that problem-- more specific than just "Why doesn't this work?"

I would not be one of those teachers who says "You are all really quiet. I'm not sure whether to back up and explain it again. Someone nod if you understand." Instead, when I am uncertain that a student is following me, I would say "How would you rephrase what I just said in your own words-- if it made sense?"

During the second week it's a bit late in the process to emphasize keeping a TXT file with notes, but it still can't hurt.

I would encourage him to not measure himself against others, but against his past self. No one was born knowing how to do this. There is no one global standard of minimum adequacy. At each level of his development in the future, he will find places where that level fits.

If I get the sense that he has been inculcated with the tech culture's odd standards, I might remind him that software development is a job for normal people. He is going to be competent, and that's all that matters. You know the tech culture I mean. Constant use of terms like "rockstar" or "ninja" imply that you're either a super-genius, or worthless. It's not reality. Apply for jobs anyway, and do them proudly, with an understanding that 99% of devs provide plenty of value to their employers without being superhuman miracle workers.
You're teaching an 8 week adult bootcamp, from 9am-5pm daily. *
There are only 3 women in a twenty person class. Does this affect how you prepare group projects? If so, how?
I would ask other instructors I know, to find out how they have approached this. If I directly ask the students for feedback on how they would like me to approach it, this might discourage them, as studies have shown students perform more poorly when it is pointed out that they are in a disadvantaged group, in an effect called "priming".

It might be better to assign all three women to work in the same group to avoid one woman being in a group with two men, and being talked-over or dismissed. On the other hand, I don't want them to feel segregated. I would need to do more reading and ask for more advice from women who are software developers.
You're teaching a 10 week public course, offered 2 nights a week from 6pm - 8pm. *
One of your students is not showing up regularly but he is still handing in work on time and his work shows relatively thorough understanding of the concepts you're teaching in class. Do you do anything about his lack of presence in class?
I would ask him why he is absent. Is it due to life circumstances, or because he feels it is unnecessary? I would tell him that collaboration with others is one of the most important skills in software development, and that he can greatly improve on where he already is if he helps students who know less about it than he does.

If his absences continue, I would work within the school's certification policies regarding those who did not take the course they signed up for-- for example, is it a graded class in which I can reduce his grade based on number of missed classes? Or is it a "pass or fail" certification?
You're teaching an introductory programming class. *
One of your students clearly has had programming experience in the past. She finishes independent projects quickly and frequently helps classmates understand concepts. However, she occasionally asks questions during class that introduce higher-level concepts than you plan to teach and that the rest of the students do not understand. This often leads to confusion and derails your instruction. How do you handle this situation?
I would thank her for the question and explain that we don't have time to cover that. After class, I would ask her when this happens to jot a note to herself, reminding her to ask me one-on-one or email me. I would then respond either with explanations, or with blog posts which lead to more self-directed learning materials.
You're teaching at a high school for one of our youth programs. The course you are teaching is part of the students' daily schedule. *
One of your students seems distracted and regularly goes on random websites while you are teaching. Her grades are low, which seems to match her understanding of the material. She refuses help from the TA and occasionally falls asleep in class. What do you do?
That's me in high school, in any class I was not interested in. I have been thinking about this ever since. When a student doesn't get a choice about whether to learn, they often don't want to. Without the student's consent, teaching is effectively wasted, especially when they see it as capitulating a power-struggle over their own right to their own lives. Establishing the student's consent seems like step one.

I would make the material as engaging and approachable as possible. I would ask what she does want to do with her time, and springboard from that to see if any of her activities can be improved by creating a website about it.

I would gently ask questions which might indicate whether she has an adequate support network, because of sleeping in class, and I'd see if maybe she needs to go somewhere quiet during my class and get an opportunity to sleep. Maybe give her some food that increases blood sugar.

If none of that works, well, I'm going to be completely up-front and honest with you about my position on high school. The bodily autonomy of being in my classroom is a consent issue. That matters to me more than her parents paying me. I want to be a resource, not a jailer.

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