During this year’s Code Summer Camp, Thoki Sibanda from South Africa participated as a coach. Read his reflections after an exciting week in a whole new country and a new context here.

Thoki Sibanda

Thoki Sibanda

This past week I had the pleasure of serving as one of the coaches at Mjärdevi’s Code Summer Camp. I had the pleasure of helping teenage participants hone their programming skills and develop various projects. This was a unique challenge in that the range of experience among the participants was quite broad with some participants having programmed for several years before and others having had little to no experience with programming before the camp. I initially suspected that these two groups of people would be the most difficult to help. I feared I might not be able to help explain certain programming concepts well enough for a beginner to understand and on the other end of the spectrum I feared that I would be able to offer little assistance to those who were working on more advanced projects using technologies I had little to no experience in. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could still help the more experienced participants by drawing on my knowledge of universal programming concepts and applying them to the projects that they were working on. So, even if I didn’t completely understand how their project worked or know how to fix the issues they were having, I was still able to ask them relevant questions and offer suggestions so that they could find their own solutions. As for the beginners, I admittedly underestimated the tenacity of a mind that is eager to learn. The beginners quickly picked up on concepts by learning both from their peers as well as the coaches. In cases where a concept was difficult for them to grasp, I found it useful to present a simplified version of the concept which didn’t fully encapsulate the concept but was similar enough for the participants to get the gist of it.

Before arriving at the camp, I was worried that I didn’t know everything that I would need to adequately assist the participants, thankfully I found that I didn’t need to as I was fortunate to be working among a team of extremely dedicated coaches with experience in a variety of fields. This meant that we were able to draw upon each other’s experience when tackling a difficult coding issue. It’s also worth noting that even with our shared interest in programming, each member of the coaching team brought their own unique personality and perspective to the table. As a result, we were fortunate to be able to discuss many different approaches for tackling the various challenges we encountered throughout the week. So, I firmly believe that we were able to draw on each other’s expertise to provide the best possible experience for the participants that we could.

As challenges occurred throughout the week, the coaching team was swift in dealing with them as they occurred. However, one personal challenge which lingered throughout the week was the language barrier between me and the Swedish speaking participants. This barrier bothered me as I felt that there were times where I wasn’t as helpful as I had wanted to be. Regardless I would like to thank the participants and my fellow coaches for being so accommodating and understanding. I would also like to thank the participants especially for allowing me to offer them assistance (and in some cases, ask for assistance) despite it meaning that there would be some extra effort required on their part to receive my help.

Ultimately this week has been a great experience for me. It was a pleasure to learn about Swedish culture and share some of South African culture as well. I would like to think that this week I learnt just as much as I was able to teach (if not more). Perhaps what I enjoyed learning most is how much I enjoy teaching.