I am a person that tends to have a hard time saying no. I am a sucker. I am the sucker that you look for when you need a volunteer to coach, or lead Sunday school or to cover your recess duty. I just can't say no very well.
Speaking in public however is one task I have never had a problem saying no to. I never wanted to do it, and no matter how many times someone wonderful like Michelle Matias encouraged me to speak about my experience with coding I could easily laugh at her and say, "No, not going to happen." I am no expert on coding and I had no desire to stand in front of an audience and pretend to be one. But then she did it. She convinced me when she said, "Mindy just think of all of the teachers out there like yourself who are interested in teaching code and are just starting. Just tell them your story." That got me thinking, there probably are a lot of teachers out there like myself who are a bit freaked out when they first heard about teaching coding but are willing to give it a try. Teachers who aren't sure what that might look like and they just might get something out of hearing my story. They may even be encouraged that someone as non techie as myself could introduce kids to coding.
So I signed up to speak, first at Vietnam Tech Conference and then at EARCOS. I spent hours researching and connecting with other like minded people. I connected with amazing people like Chez Vivian and Joe Schmidt who took the time to give me feedback and new ideas. I learned a great deal from preparing my presentations.
My presentation felt ready. The entire presentation was aimed at teachers who are new to coding. I was going to tell my story to other teachers and hope to encourage them in their journey.
Then I stood at the front of a room full of participants and realized I had it completely wrong. I had a room full of tech people. There were a few classroom teachers in the audience but the majority were tech facilitators. I went ahead and told my story anyway and what happened surprised me.
They asked questions. Questions like, "How do you see this fitting into the curriculum?" and "What resources would you recommend for teaching coding to an 8 year old?" I realized that these impressively techie people might be more capable coders than most teachers but they have the same question that teachers do, "How do we actually make this work in our school?"
Speaking with the participants was awesome. I came away having learned more than I taught. I gained new insight and new inspiration and along the way somehow I helped encourage others. Riki who attended my workshop at Vietnam Tech Conference might not know it but when she posted the below tweet it did more than make my day. It felt like my preparation had been worth it.
I spoke with Riki via Skype the other week. She mentioned that although she had been nervous she started her schools coding club that week. She said it was a big leap for her. She said their was so much excitement that they had maxed out the number of students who could attend. Hearing that and knowing I was a small part of encouraging her to take that step made me really glad that Michelle convinced me to present. Sometimes saying no is overrated. Say yes, take a leap.
Mindy Slaughter is a classroom teacher at UNIS Hanoi. She started learning to code when some of her students wanted to study it for the PYP Exhibition. She has since help start the Elementary Coding Club and is a founding member of the Global Codeathon. She believes coding opens the doors for student creativity and is working to integrate it into the curriculum.