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The Boot Camp Diaries Week 1: JavaScript, Pair Coding, and Project Management – Oh My!

On the first day of class, fourteen students gathered in one of the LEARN Academy classrooms to find out just what they had gotten themselves into. Judging by the kahoot poll we took, everyone was some combination of nervous and excited. As I sat with my notebook at the ready, I wondered if they were nervous about the same things I was.

I’ve always been a good student, but I wouldn’t identify myself as a fast learner. I usually need time to sit with new concepts, consider them from various angles, and play around with the practical application before I really understand. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep up, and that I’d embarrass myself by not understanding the lessons as quickly as everyone else – or maybe not at all. I was also nervous about pair programming.

For the uninitiated, pair programming is when two devs share a machine and code together. One person does the actual typing, the other observes and “proof reads”, and they talk through the code together. For example, “We want our program to do X, so we need to start with a variable, let’s call it Y. Then we should use a function, right? Do you agree so far? How would you start the function?” On the same kahoot poll, the majority of the class identified as introverted, as I do. How were all these introverted people going to spend eight hours a day in each other’s company, struggling through a series of logic problems, and manage to retain information?

A good chunk of time on that first day was spent covering exactly that: how to work with other people in a respectful and effective manner despite feeling incredibly frustrated. In case you’re curious, here’s the cheat sheet: communication and breaks. I’m lucky in that I’m still working, so a lot of my breaks are built in: calls with clients, responding to emails, etc. Honestly, if they weren’t, I don’t know that I would be comfortable enough to tell someone I don’t know well that I need to take a break – especially if they’re determined to keep going.

A typical day in the life of the first week looked like this:
9am to 9:15 – Stand up, a ritual in which we gather in a circle and answer a question like what our favorite food is or what time of day we’re most productive, and check in with the class. Eventually we’ll be talking about our code instead, but the first week getting to know one another is pretty important.
9:15 to 10am-ish – Lecture, during which time one of our four teachers introduces the basic concepts and randomly assigns our partner for the day.
10:00 to noon – Work through coding challenges with our partner. Each day we’re assigned challenges, epic challenges, and stretch goals. Lots of googling and documentation-reading is required once we’re beyond the basic challenges.
noon to 1pm – Lunch! Or, in my case, uninterrupted guilt-free work time! Plus a sandwich and a fruit cup.
1pm to 5pmĀ – Some combination of more lecture and more challenges.

One aspect of the experience has been particularly surprising: leaving at the end of the day is difficult. Walking outside into the late-afternoon sun is a bit like leaving a movie theater after watching a long and engrossing film. My brain is tired and I’m craving a rest, but I’m reluctant to let go of what I’ve been working on, to relinquish the train of thought that has gotten me this far. If I stop thinking about the latest challenge now, will I ever find the answer?

Now here I am on a Saturday, with the first week’s assessment lurking in my code editor. I’m still not sure if I’ll find the answer, but I’m determined to try.

</ XOXO >

[Photo credit: Adi Goldstein via Unsplash]

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