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


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


Why I left teaching(the elephant in the room)

Ben Gristwood's photo
Ben Gristwood
·Sep 14, 2020·

4 min read

So, I started teaching to do some good. I was a PHP programmer and IT support in a small company in the north west and was spending a lot of time working with the junior programmers to learn the basics (at that time the basics were HTML, CSS, a bit of PHP), and i did the other stuff, the classes, the encryption, the back-end databases etc.

Javascript at that time (around 2005-6) was seen as a negative, this was due to a reliance on W3C and compliance. It allowed us to produce some really fancy ideas with CSS we probably wouldn’t of learned without it(off topic!) and (first and foremost) I LOVE teaching, that moment when a kid says, ”you made me want to do this”, that’s the best bit ever.

Teaching taught me a lot, it taught me how to learn. University did not work for me, yes I did it, yes, I got a degree, but learning this way was not for me. Again this could be part of the reason I got into teaching, to help people learn who don’t like the standard path.

Uni taught me how to code, but teaching made me a better coder.

I had to teach students “the why” not just, do this, it’ll work. It also made me consider how I code and how to code clean (This is massively important especially when you have to mark 30 pieces of code and you haven’t taught them to make their code neat!)

Moving on to teaching A-level I used to teach final year projects and this is where I think the frustration began. I got better.

At first, like most teachers I was getting the kids through their projects, make it work, teach the theory, get a good grade etc. I taught in VB as this was what I nominated on the first day on the job (i walked in…”what language would you like?” “errr….VB?”, we move on).

After a few years of VB I started wanting to not only make good coders, but make employable coders. I scaled up from VB to C# to make the language more effective, I started working on pair programming, teaching agile and scrum(not because It was part of the course, but because I went to a bar camp in my free time and I learned this was used in industry). I started teaching kids to write success criteria as user stories and use a SCRUM product backlog when planning their projects(if you don't understand this, more on it later!).

But what I deemed as successful others looked down on because I should “just teach the course” where as my mentality was always “make them good enough to get a job, not just pass an exam and get to uni”

At this point I think I decided, hey, I’m getting better at this. Not because I was always the strongest coder in my class at uni, but because now I was doing it clean, I was coding in my spare time and getting back to what it meant to be a good coder and learning how to learn new stuff.

I was now coding so much cleaner than i was 10 years before, but looking back on the PHP i did years earlier, it was still pretty nice...but now i was out of touch with developments in the industry

There is a host of other stuff too, and bureaucracy, politics and everything else(teaching doesn’t make you want to leave, it’s the other stuff around teaching)….but that’s just boring and I don’t want to get into it here… makes me sound salty and I don’t want that.

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