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Denis Veleaev
Denis Veleaev

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What I've learned during the year teaching IT to children as a volunteer.

Hi! For last year I’ve been teaching children IT disciplines as a volunteer in Coder Dojo (The community of 2272 free, open and local programming clubs for young people in 100+ countries). Well, I’d say “teach” is the wrong word. In our Dojo we apply so-called “Project-based learning”. Me and 2 other outstanding people have been helping children with everything they want in the field of IT (game development, web development, graphic design, SMM, AR effects for Instagram, etc.)

Initially, I thought I’ll teach these children. In fact, I think I’ve learned from them much more. So, today I want to tell you why I think you should definitely try IT volunteering.

Here’re conclusions that I’ve made this year:

We’re extremely lazy

Sorry for that, but for the vast majority of us, it’s true. As a volunteer, I visited several IT events and competitions for young people. I met a lot of talented children and, to be honest, it was a challenge for my ego. These outstanding children and teens create serious projects in domains such as Machine Learning, IoT, robotics, game dev, etc. I’m pretty sure that some of them could probably replace some of your colleagues right now. And that’s not because they are so talented. They are not geniuses. They simply work hard! And this drives me to work harder.

It’s normal to try and fail

In fact, it’s the only way to grow. You should fail a lot! I know that might sound corny, but we forget about this simple truth so often. We’re so afraid of failing that we don’t even try. The children, on the contrary, try and fail a lot. And that’s how they find their interests, their strengths, and weaknesses. And, guess what, nobody cares about your failure, so, please, don’t be afraid! (To be honest, I’m afraid to publish this article :))

Internal motivation is far more powerful than external

What drives you as a professional? What was your motivation when you started learning IT disciplines? I’m pretty sure that the majority of us didn’t start learning because of money. And I really hope you managed to keep this spark inside you because after hard work that’s the main driver of growth. Internal motivation not only helps you to grow faster, it really makes you happier. And that’s the distinguishing feature of the most talented children (and grown-up colleagues as well). So, if you don’t feel this fire, you should probably do something with it.

All the limitations are only in your head

As I said, I’ve met a lot of teenagers who already can replace some of your colleagues. The secrets are hard work and passion. And nothing else matters.

It’s normal to be a generalist

Even more, it’s cool! As a developer, I often heard something like “You should know everything about ”. And that’s okay unless it’s not for you. Some people are generalists, and despite their narrow niche they want to have at least superficial knowledge of other fields. And that’s what helped me a lot with mentoring children.

Grown-ups are simply big children

Well, what I wanted to say is that this experience of working with children helped me when at my workplace I got my first junior assistant and had to help her get onboarded fast in a quite complex project. So, If you want to become a better leader or mentor, I definitely recommend you to try volunteer teaching.

It really extends your network

I wish I knew it earlier that volunteering gives you the possibility to enormously extend your network with amazing people. It’s hard to explain how it influences you, but it’s easy to understand the benefits of being familiar with the most “significant” people in the IT domain in your location.

In conclusion

I want to say I found what makes me happy. I will not exchange for anything the look of the burning eyes of people who give their whole soul to their beloved work. And I am very glad that I have the opportunity to help them with this. I hope my experience was useful to you. I really want this community to continue to grow.

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