The Path Less Travelled: A Personal (Coding) Story
When I speak with the parents of my students, I am often struck by the strength of their love for their children and their unwavering commitment to providing them with the best possible education and preparation for the future. It moves me greatly.
In this blog post I want to talk a little about the winding and unexpected path my life has taken and how coding and the mind-set it creates have been both an inspiration and a support to me through good times and bad.
I was born in London, and grew up in a small hamlet just outside Tring in Hertfordshire. Population 200. No shops. One train station. Until the age of eight, I spent most of my time climbing trees and swinging on my climbing frame in the garden. On my eighth birthday I was dismayed and disappointed when my mother presented me with a home computer; not the toy truck I had asked for! I had no idea she had bought me a tool that would nurture me for the rest of my life. Why are mums always right? ;-)
I learned to program in BASIC on my ZX Spectrum 16K and spent my high school days with my face stuck to a computer screen with my friends planning and coding games and enjoying the creativity of designing graphics and sounds for those games.
I went on to study physics and astrophysics at the University of Birmingham (UK) and was helped in my scientific studies by the analytical way of thinking I had developed while coding games with my friends. I also learned a programming language called FORTRAN (used by NASA on the first IBM mainframe computer which was used to put the first human in orbit) and found it much easier than many of my classmates because I was already familiar with BASIC. On my course, we used coding to realistically simulate the orbits of the planets in the Solar System and to model the movements of stars in galaxies.
After graduation, I was certain that I didn’t want to be a scientist. The mathematics was just too difficult and I’d learned that I wasn’t nearly as passionate about physics as I’d thought. I decided that I needed to take a year out to “find myself”.
To cut a long story short, I took a job in Japan where I taught English in schools for two years and then went on to run my own language schools for the next ten years. To master the Japanese language, I applied the same methodical, planned approach that I’d learned from coding and after three years of being in the country I was able to converse, read and write to a professional level. Running my own business required me to be extremely organised and creative. Again, my background in coding gave me the necessary skills.
After Japan, I went to the National University of Singapore to do my masters in Environmental Management as I wanted to do my part to protect the environment. I went on to have a second career in sustainability, working in the NHS, universities and finally at Barclays HQ as a data analyst. Being able to approach life day by day, plan by plan, in a methodical and measured manner gave me the confidence I needed to make major changes in my life.
In 2016, I realised that I needed to make more big changes. My marriage had come to an end and I was deeply dissatisfied with my work. I also had terrible back pain. I made the decision to turn my life on its head… again! I began a course to become a teacher of the Alexander Technique which has improved my back health immensely and I made the bold choice to go back to teaching, which is my true passion. It was then that I met Stephen Gruppetta who had just started CodeToday and was looking for a coding instructor. I leapt at the chance and since then I have been thoroughly enjoying teaching Python to children and teenagers. There is nothing quite like seeing that spark in someone’s eyes when they “get it” and their whole face lights up with joy.
The point I want to make is that coding is a great education for life, whatever your child chooses to become. Coding is a wonderful companion in life. It certainly has been for me.
Daniel is one of our senior instructors and a member of our curriculum development team. He also writes English language textbooks for English learners and has published a book and Android app called Easy Phrasal Verbs. His website is www.phrasalverbsexamples.com