How We're Doing It
The ultimate goal is for our attendees and you to have fun! We're trying to demystify coding and get people excited about it. We want our students to feel socially comfortable, technically capable, and like as a mentor, you are approachable and can help them find solutions to their problems.
So, what can you do to help get us there?
Create A Safe Environment
The most important thing you can do as a mentor is to make people feel they are in a safe learning environment. The worst outcome is for a student to leave frustrated, confused, or belittled and never wanting to try programming again.
Help with Logistics
We need your help with these logistical items to make the session a success:
- Student check-in and device setup
- Guiding students through challenges and questions in a beginner-friendly way
- Sharing your personal experience and stories as a female developer and lifelong learner
- Decor and food set-up and teardown
Help the Teacher Read the Room
In general, teachers, especially new ones, tend to go too quickly. If you can tell students are confused, try offering to repeat your own explanation of a concept. Even just hearing it again can help and spark new questions.
Take an interest in the attendees. Help foster collaboration and be approachable. Learn names, hobbies, interests, etc. Ask them what got them interested or how they heard about our program, for example. Find ways to make yourself relatable. Let attendees know about your struggles and embrace blind spots in your knowledge. No one knows everything and being vulnerable enough to admit that gives us all the opportunity to feel comfortable and learn together!
Formulating good responses
Maintaining a positive atmosphere is in your competent hands! Encouraging responses to questions goes a long way in nurturing learning.
- Be receptive and don't act surprised by any, ANY, questions
- Refrain from any answers or reactions which might shame someone in their learning process
- Be especially encouraging to the first few questions to help ease apprehensions
- Sharing something about yourself is a great icebreaker
- Correct someone if they're wrong, but do it politely and with encouragement
- Ask them how they got to that conclusion
- Phrase the correction as a different option or as a suggestion
- Guide them gently to the correct answer
- Walk the middle path: don't go too deep or too shallow in your explanations
- Avoid the trap of too much specificity
Removing the roadblocks
People often fear making mistakes. Reinforcing the fact that as developers, we are constantly learning can help. By providing a judgement free zone for them to play around in and explore, we can help attendees make mistakes without any risk or fear. Remember to be patient as well- accept that not understanding something is part of the path to understanding it.
Impostor syndrome is the inability to internalize accomplishments despite outward evidence of one's own competency. Impostor syndrome tends to be particularly common among women. You can help by reassuring attendees that they are capable and making progress. Celebrate their accomplishments and encourage them to continue their learning beyond the session. Let them deviate from the session content where appropriate and let them make customizations where they feel comfortable. Also, compliment their work and reflect on the progress they've made whenever the chance arises.
We want you to show up at your best and highly encourage you to maintain a good work-volunteer-life balance. If you need a break, please make sure to take time to yourself! We believe there is no shame in the reality of maintaining temporary or ongoing mental health needs. We actively work to develop a healthy and vibrant community of mentors who can support each other in our common goals.
Put yourself in their place. As an attendee you are:
- Learning something for the first time
- Trying something possibly completely different than you ever have before
- Trying something you've possibly abandoned before due to frustrations
- Not familiar with jargon or terminology
- Not sure what questions to ask or how to articulate those questions
- In a group of strangers
You've been in this position before and will be again (hopefully), so think about what you might need in such a situation.