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Tips for people mentoring in programming courses

The short story how to be happy as a mentor

Last update: 16/08/2015, Aga Naplocha

I have been always beliving that sharing your knowledge and energy with others may bring only positive results. That’s why I decided to take part in Geek Girls Carrots HTML & CSS workshops as a mentor. After 8 weeks of classes, I came up with a list of hints that I will use in the future to be a better mentor and to conduct better workshops. So let's begin!

Motivated students during the last classes.
Photo by Ilo Skarbowska


You need a group of people who are willing to share their time, energy and ideas for free.

There will always be volunteers who like to take part in organising something great and significant. However, the thing is that some people have hidden goals which might not be in line with the group's objective. Every day practices will soon verify true intentions. Don't be disappointed when you'll discover this. It’s a part of life.


Not everyone has to be MacGyver.
Not everyone can type with a speed of light.

We should be more patient. Everyone deserves a chance. Pay attention to those who are not that fast as you expected. Having your participants not stressed is a paramount of importance. The scope of material you planned to cover is not crucial. The most important thing is the comfort of your participants even if this means a slower progress.


Be prepared for critiques from the participants

Don’t be afraid of criticisim from participants. Be open. Listen. Stay humble. It doesn't have to be a bad experience.

The classes for both groups started on 6th and 7th of May. Each group consisted of 20 participants.
Photo by Darek Hermanowski


Know your students and learn their goals

Don’t rely exclusively on your assumptions why they take part in such an event. It can alter your attitude as their motivation might be totally different from what you expected.


Keep smiling

As it is not a 9-5 job and you’re doing this for free, make fun of it.
No matter the hardships are. Encourage others to show more enthusiasm.


Be in touch with other mentors and have replacement

Meet regularly with other menors to exchange your experience and to brainstorm. Workshops are not just about teaching people but also meeting them.

Thanks to Warsaw University of Technology / Faculty of Mathematics & Information Technology (on the photo) and Dentsu Aegis Network we had large rooms at our's disposal.
Photo by me


Respect different ideas and different ways of thinking

You might have a clearly defined idea or approach how to teach people, but who says it is the best way for them? Learn from other mentors and observe what works for the students. Do not reject anything before you try. The ideas that seem to be the most crazy at the first sight, sometimes work the best.


Failures happen

Be prepared that technology may not work. Always have a plan B to avoid an impression that the class time is wasted.


Constant improvement is important

Ask the participants for feedback when the course is over. And try to keep in touch with them to observe their progress. There's no better reward than enjoying how your students grow and develop the knowledge that you shared with them.

There were usually 4-5 mentors in the room, so that each participant can easily ask questions and solve her/his problem.
Photo by Darek Hermanowski


Play & have fun

Increase engagement and catch the students' attention. What about gamification? What about quizes? Do something that will add a twist the people like. The engagement both from student’s and mentor’s perspective decreases gradually. Find a way to liven it up.


Find a way to show the importance of the event

At the beginning of the course set the rules. Think how students can compensate for their potential absence. However, do not make them feel like at school. They might be afraid to ask questions and it might influence their creativity.


Encourge all the questions.
All of them are valuable.

Do your best and care if anyone feels comfortable with asking questions and understands the topic clearly. Encourage people to ask as many questions as possible.

Awesome conference room at Dentsu in which we organize classes for one of the group.
Photo by me

About me

Aga Naplocha

I'm a Visual Designer
& Front-end Dev @ Adobe.

I'm passionate about simple and functional solutions. In my spare time I engage in different communities, eat a lot and I try sewing.

About the course

The course was organized by Warsaw unit of GGC by Ilona & Artur.

The idea came up in the middle of April 2015 and was an Artur's initiative. It was developing surprisingly fast with a team of motivated organizers and mentors. There were over 1200 filled up questionnaires, from which we chose 40 people, divided between two groups. Each team had its own mentor's team consisted of 4 members. The materials and program were prepared for people who haven't yet had experience in coding in HTML or CSS. The students (both female and male) were chosen from different disciplines, environments and age range. The course consisted of 8 lessons, 120 minutes each.