My first day at work was the second day of teacher training. They flew in all the teachers and some of the TAs for the summer program to New York to learn about Girls Who Code and teach some basics of teaching (most of them are recent college graduates). It was a lot of talking, but I learned a lot. Ashley, the Head Curriculum Developer, taught some basic techniques. She modeled how to scaffold a lesson to make the lesson student driven.
One huge component that was stressed over and over was creating a supportive environment. Although this is technically a class, Ashley stressed bonding activities; when the girls came to speak to us, that was the main thing they remembered. They remembered walking in on the first day, feeling shy, and like everyone was better than them. Through the bonding games, students started feeling comfortable with each other. They asked one another questions, struck up conversations, and even several years after this class, they hang out. It showed me the importance of creating a supportive and close knit classroom environment.
This week, I started more of what I will be working on this summer. My current task is to revamp the clubs curriculum. The clubs program is a lower scale version of the summer program that happens in schools and tech companies over the school year, two hours every week for six months (which with the school calendar, is really the whole year). The class has a volunteer teacher and is comprised of twenty students of all levels. The program has three levels taught at the same time. The level 1 students get the most hand holding and instructional time while levels 2 and 3 students work more on their own. Currently, the projects are static and less relevant to students’ lives and actual industry projects. My job is to change that. For the past few days, I have been reading the hundreds of pages of curricula for the summer program and clubs program as it is now. In addition, I have read the mission statement of Girls Who Code and their teaching philosophy.
I have a lot of support at Girls Who Code. There are only about seven employees based in New York. I have the privilege of sitting at a desk across from Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code and a leader in working to “close the gender gap in STEM education and empower girls to pursue careers in technology and engineering”. Ashely is right next to me, and her passion in getting more girls hooked on computer science is contagious. All around me are powerful women working to improve STEM education for girls and democratizing computer science education. It is simply an awesome place to work.