Ben's Blog - A Journey from teaching to software developer


Ben's Blog - A Journey from teaching to software developer


How I started to move....

Ben Gristwood's photo
Ben Gristwood
·Sep 17, 2020·

4 min read

So I decided about 12 months before I left teaching I was going to move. I took kids to careers fairs (then walked around myself asking questions), I started getting serious about my code….

Getting serious with code

I always said, I’d never give my students something I couldn’t do myself(there are teachers I know who teach GCSE Computing, but can't solve the coursework), I’d set myself a time limit for GCSE coursework(do it in under 2 hours, from blind, never read it before). this was my yearly little challenge to me.

I also used to build my own version(s) of the A-Level coursework, so every year students would come to me with ideas, and I’d start building, it allowed me to predict the issues they were going to hit before they hit them and then I could look at how I was going to guide them to a solution(not show them how to do it, or show them my code, guide them to a solution, I’m very picky about that point and they hated me for it!). This is not to be arrogant, just to say, I was ok at programming before.

It also meant that I was practising what I preached, modular code, functions that were stand alone and portable, commented code(because explaining yourself to students is important and when you are only working on code for about an hour at a time, you forget where you were at!) Looking at making things object orientated and refining code for continuous development.

Other Stuff

Because I was also out of industry for so long (and also out of coding, you code in a different way in school), I needed to make sure I could hit the ground running. My main thing was making sure I was familiar with as many environments, coding practices and industry practices as I could.

One of the first things I did was start with Kata’s. This is where you go to a website like hacker rank or Codewars and start to see how fast you can solve the problems. Some of these(the easy one’s you can bosh out in half an hour others I was like this for 2 days :

It also allows you to experiment with other languages, yes, I can code PHP, Java, C#, Python(even tho' I personally hate it, we all have our favourites!), but when you get stuck in a rut, try converting something you wrote in c# to java and make it work. When it does you feel like:

side note - using Codewars for A-Level

if i was 16/17 I'd love this. it allows you to form "clans" and gain "honor" for the amount of challenges you complete, it also give a bit of classroom competition. as a teacher you could set a challenge for the week and see if they can pass all the tests. instant lesson/perfect revision!


Careers fairs are your friend

I took students to careers fairs, and i started to chat to developers, industry experts, recruiters. learning from them. I also went on my own and had those conversations.

I had to get a CV(for those not in teaching, teachers don't need a CV to apply for a job!). i hadn't written one in 10 years and had to really get my head around how you write one again. I also helped year 13 prepare CV's too and make sure that they were ready for industry (i still maintain the best way to learn is to teach someone else to do it! )

After speaking with people at careers fairs, I looked at Javascript and React, these are pretty core now and you have to have knowledge of front and back end development, using freecodecamp is a great place to start to get an idea of what you are doing.

There are different strands you can kind of follow: Javascript, PHP, .NET are the 3 main one's and I could do all three(then when i got a job, I can now specialise). I think being a jack-of-all, master-of-none can be quite useful(and it's one of the reasons i have my current job).

This is one of the first lessons I've learned from writing this and looking back. always go back to the Kata's - just going back and hitting projects like that in different languages that I'm coding in now....that's my next step.

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