Do I know enough to coach at codebar?


4 min read

Although this is specific to codebar, since this is what I have experience of, it will apply to similar places.

This is not at all a sponsored post, but borne out of a discussion I had with a student where they didn't feel they knew enough to coach, whereas I felt they were more qualified than I was.

What is codebar?

I can't speak to how it all worked in the before times, since I only joined this year. But this is how it is now.

During these times when everything is virtual, what happens is that you register for a session in the language and timezone that works for you, then on the night you turn up on Discord, are paired with a student and then it's up to the two of you what you do.

Generally what happens is that you are on a voice chat, with the option to share screens. So the student can show what they're working on and you can share something you've worked on, if it helps them.

So I need to know everything/have been working as a developer for 10 years, right?


There are plenty of stories from teachers who are two pages ahead of their students in the textbook. I have a friend who did some supply teaching of Spanish, despite not knowing a word of Spanish. In his case, he had a whole class of students and teacher training so he could help them teach each other. You only have one student, so you do need to know something.

Let's say you're confident in your HTML skills, are struggling with CSS and have heard of JavaScript. You're not going to be of any use to someone who wants help with JavaScript. But you are going to be helpful for someone working with HTML. And more use than you think for someone working with CSS.

So how can I coach someone when I don't know more than they do?

The clue is in the word 'coach' - it's different to the word 'teach'. Roger Federer's coach, Ivan Ljubičić, has not won as many titles as Federer. He's never even won a Grand Slam. But he can still coach someone to do better than he did.

Effectively what you're doing is to help someone help themselves. You're not giving them the answer, you're helping them find the answer. There's nothing to stop you both googling the question and discussing the answer. The best sessions I've had were ones where we were both trying to solve the problem together.

Okay, but it sounds scary, talking to a strange and sounding like I know what I'm talking about.

Yeah, it is. The first time. It gets easier after that. But when you sign up you have a few characters to say what languages you know and you can also mention it's your first time and you're nervous. If you can't fit it in the character limit, you can always mention this on Discord or Slack. They always have more students than coaches, so the organisers want you to have a good time and come back again. They are there to help you.

But imposter syndrome...

Yeah, I have it too. But told it to could be quiet and signed up before I could talk myself out of it. It was still a nagging voice until I did my first session. After that it didn't have a leg to stand on.

I'm willing to give it a try, where can I find more information?

There is a teaching guide on the codebar website, which admittedly I've completely ignored, but it's really useful advice to read before your first session when you're not sure what you should be doing.

If you scroll down a bit on the home page you'll see a list of chapters. Since it's all virtual at the moment, you don't need to live that close to one, just be able to speak the language and be available in the time zone. In the same place is a list of upcoming events, so you can sign up to a virtual workshop.