23 Nov 2014

I’ve been having a great weekend so far! I spent Friday evening and most of Saturday at the first-ever RailsBridge workshop in Oakland, where I helped out as a TA for students just discovering Rails. I was really, really impressed with the students attending the workshop: most of them had very little experience coding (at most an online tutorial or two), but they were incredibly engaged and picked up new concepts quickly. Because this was my first RailsBridge event, most of my time was spent observing and debugging - spotting typos, fixing errors in the Rails console, and helping one student work through the curriculum, which was designed for Rails 4, in Rails 3. (I had almost forgotten what a pain attr_accessible could be… almost.) This was a great introduction to the RailsBridge curriculum, as well as the pace and format of a well-run class.

Once I had gotten a little more comfortable, I had the opportunity to give a brief introduction to Git in the afternoon. This turned out to be surprisingly difficult, even though (or maybe because) I use Git every day. It’s really difficult to boil down such a powerful tool to a brief, beginner-friendly summary. For example, do you just talk about what version control is? Mention GitHub? What about branching? Reverting? Do they need to know how to write a good commit message yet? What a SHA is? Good Git workflow? Where’s the sweet spot between information overload and scratching the surface? I ended up giving a very high-level description of version control, showing a little Git log output, and drawing a rough outline of a branched Git repo. We touched on GitHub and its importance in open-source software briefly when a student asked a question about it, then moved on to adding and committing changes the students had made to their projects.

After trying teaching for myself, I had a newfound level of respect for the teachers at the workshop, all of whom were incredibly thorough and patient. Even more, though, I was struck by their sense of commitment to the Ruby community and desire to “pay it forward.” Very few of us are entirely self-taught; most of us received some teaching or at least guidance as we learned to code. I love belonging to a group that’s so willing to embrace and educate new members, and I’m happy to be able to help!

For information about upcoming RailsBridge events, check BridgeTroll.

Molly Huerster

Published on 23 Nov 2014 Find me on Twitter!

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