Newb Teacher: My Adventures at DBC Chicago

This week I began a six week stint as a teacher at DevBootCamp Chicago. I’ve long been interested in the topic of how we can make it possible for more people to enter the field of software development. I got a chance to meet a DBC graduate, Tyler Shipe, when he came to Gaslight Coffee a few months back. I was very impressed by Tyler and what he had to say about the DBC program. I already knew Dave Hoover and a good number of teachers, so the next time I was in Chicago I arranged to visit. This got me even more intrigued, and after talking with my family and business partners I asked Dave if he would be interested in having me come teach for a few weeks over the summer. And here I am.

My first week has interesting, fun, overwhelming, and exciting. The DBC program is split into 3-week chunks called Phases, and I’m teaching Phase 2. At Phase 2, the students have had 3 weeks of command line ruby programming experience and we throw them into the deep end of web development using. They’re learning sinatra, HTTP, and how the web works all at once. It’s a crazy amount to throw at students all at once and the students are understandably a bit overwhelmed. But I’ve been very impressed with how well they are keeping up and getting the challenge assignments done each day.

A typical DBC day consists of an hour-long lecture each morning and most of the rest of the day is spent working on “challenges”, or little programming assignments. The pace is really intense. I often find myself wondering if I would be able to make through the program as a student. The challenges are almost always done in pairs, and the Friday challenges are larger assignments done in teams of 4. This gives DBC a vibe that’s much more like a real development team than a classroom setting. There’s a constant buzz of activity as students work with and teach one another. This is further enhanced by having multiple “cohorts” of students in different Phases at the same time. This means that Phase 3 students are helping Phase 2 students. There’s also any number of recent graduates that are coming and spending time as TAs while they commence their job search. Seeing the students work together is definitely the highlight of my time here so far.

I’m about to get in my car and make the trek back to Cincinnati for the weekend. Next week I’ll talk more about some of the unique practices of DBC that focus on software developers as people. That aspect of the program might be what I’m most excited about.

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