Volunteering with Code Nation

I first heard about ScriptEd two years ago at a Brooklyn JS meetup. Given the challenges the tech industry faces with diversity, I was excited to hear that a smart non-profit had emerged to help tackle the problem.

ScriptEd class field trip to The Wall Street Journal.
ScriptEd class field trip to The Wall Street Journal.

ScriptEd equips students in under-resourced schools with the fundamental coding skills and professional experiences that together create access to careers in technology. The classes are taught twice weekly in New York and San Francisco by volunteer instructors who are actively working in the tech industry. For many students, ScriptEd is their first exposure to programming. For most, it’s also the first time software has been presented as a potential (and attainable) career path.

I have to admit — I was initially reluctant to sign up and start teaching. I was totally on board with the mission, but was concerned about the time commitment, my qualifications, and the impact I’d be able to make.

A year later everything lined up and I decided to take the leap. I’m happy to report I’ve just completed my first year co-teaching a foundations course in Brooklyn!

I wanted to share a few reflections on my experience and answer some common questions in hopes you’ll find a way to support ScriptEd as an instructor or donor in the future.

Q: Does teaching take a lot of time?

A: Yes and no! A typical week involves about 2 hours of class time. If you’re leading the class, there’s also 2-3 hours of slide prep for the week. The slides and curriculum for each lesson are predetermined and live on GitHub.

ScriptEd does a nice job of distributing the workload amongst volunteers at each school. My school had a class of 25 students, 4 teachers, and a program manager. That meant each teacher would only be leading once a month. Most weeks the time commitment was totally reasonable. Like anything, a routine develops and teaching simply becomes a normal part of your day.

Q: Will it fit with my work schedule?

A: This definitely depends where you work. If you work somewhere with a work-from-home policy and one of those fancy snack shelves, you should (hopefully) have no problem adjusting your working hours to accommodate. If you work at a more traditional company, you’ll just need to be thoughtful with your request. Most companies are excited to embrace programs that promote diversity and help make the tech industry a more welcoming place.

It all comes down to communication. If you set clear expectations everything should go well. This volunteer information PDF is helpful to share with your boss when you make the initial request.

Q: Do I need experience teaching?

A ScriptEd student project. Kay's pizzeria!
A ScriptEd student project. Kay's pizzeria!

A: Nope! I didn’t have any teaching experience and felt prepared. ScriptEd hosts several training sessions before and during the school year. The sessions are excellent and will help you develop the teaching skills you’ll need. Basic things, like getting the attention of a room full of teenagers, are the hardest to master.

In terms of technical knowledge, you’ll be ok with an intermediate understanding of HTML, CSS, and JS. Really, any prior exposure to a programming language should be sufficient. While the class does focus on web technologies, the ultimate goal is to teach core computer science concepts that can be applied to any language.

Q: Is it fun and rewarding?

ScriptEd holiday party. We love the 90s!

A: Both! Teaching was always something I looked forward to every week. I’ve spent the last decade building things that make money or achieve business goals. It’s nice to spend time paying it forward and fostering a new generation of programmers. My students were all super talented and genuinely excited about programming. I always enjoyed seeing their creativity displayed in class projects.

Q: How do I get involved?

A: If you’re interested in getting involved, visit ScriptEd.org. I’d recommend signing up for the email newsletter so you’ll get updates when the next school year is about to begin.

If you’re ready to become an instructor, you can fill out the application form at any time. I’d recommend doing this even if you’re still trying to decide whether to commit. Signing up will allow ScriptEd staff to reach out to you and help answer any questions or figure out logistics.

You can also donate to help support ScriptEd programs.

More questions? Feel free to reach out to me directly.