Do not

  • Assume that because someone isn't asking for help, they don't have any questions

    Instead, check in with attendees and ask them how they're doing or if they need help. You can also sit next to someone and ask them what they're working on.

  • Touch keyboards (generally) or answer questions before they're asked

    There's nothing more frustrating than someone not allowing you the chance to try. Ask politely first if there's an exception to this rule.

  • Use the time to advertise our own companies/jobs/ourselves
  • Pick on or make fun of anyone or anything
  • Use slang or highly technical terms
  • Debate which programming language, methods, or technologies are "better"

    Doing so can confuse and overwhelm learners. “Language shaming” does not reflect the values of Kansas City Women in Technology.


  • Make eye contact and maintain an approachable demeanor

    Body language makes up as much as 97% of communication.

  • Assume everyone you're coaching has zero knowledge but infinite intelligence

    If in doubt: blame the material, never the learner.

  • Encourage students to answer each other's questions to help build their confidence
  • Ask questions that will help them find the answer on their own
  • Feel out their pace and adjust your guidance to match it
  • Be aware of people's personal sensitivities and of what their body language is communicating
  • Be prepared to respond to very basic questions such as “What is a directory?” or “Where did I save that file?”
  • Gauge their frustration
  • Let them know it's more than ok to take breaks
  • Help them feel capable by allowing them to do things like perform online searches for information or think a problem through out loud
  • Assess skill-levels and adjust your teaching to match
  • Be ready to explain the same thing multiple ways, multiple times; analogies can also be really helpful
  • Make learning accessible; allow for larger fonts or different mediums for communication
  • Use your judgement for when it's best to provide a quick workaround instead of a more time consuming “perfect” fix

Words and phrases to avoid

  • “Well, actually...”
    • Often provides minor corrections not conducive to furthering understanding
  • “It's easy/obvious.”
    • Could imply the learner shouldn't need help or should have known the answer
  • “Just...“
    • Implies the concept is simple

Helpful words and phrases

  • “Have you considered… ?” or “What do you think about… ?”
    • Allows you to validate their input as intelligent and valuable
    • Jump-starts ideas and discussion
  • “Let’s figure it out together.”
    • Emphasizes the importance of collaboration
    • Reasserts your belief in their competence
  • “I don’t know, but let’s find out.”
    • Encourages perseverance in learning while maintaining a focus on problem-solving
    • Develops their potential and encourages them to seek support when needed
    • Reinforces honesty and vulnerability as useful values
  • “I’m listening.”
    • Allows them to actively participate in their learning

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