The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.” – Mark Van Doren

Recently, our Engineering and Data teams at TpT Headquarters have been “assisting discovery,” with a group of early high school age students, and the experience has been eye-opening for all involved.

Every Wednesday, 15 or so high school students enrolled in a program called ScriptED make their way to TpT HQ to learn the basics of web development including Javascript, HTML, and CSS — skills that may one day give them a leg up to compete in the global economy.

And every Wednesday, our Engineers ready themselves for the onslaught of teen energy that floods the office for several hours (many of the students arrive as much as two hours early), and forces them out of their comfort zones (i.e., heads down, in front of a computer with headphones on) and into the role of “Teacher.”

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Engineering “Teachers” at TpT

Peleg Rosenthal, one of the principal Engineers involved in the project says, “We like to think that we’re just helping to level out the playing field. We give these kids a taste of what it’s like to be a programmer; the learning is still on them.” Meanwhile, the kids are giving our Engineers (and really, everyone at TpT) the opportunity to be reminded of what it’s like to be a teacher — because, even though it’s clear the kids want to be there, they’re also kids. They come to the office hungry, talking on their phones, often listening to loud music. They arrive carrying jackets and large backpacks, and they also come in carrying unknown burdens on their young shoulders that can influence their abilities to fully engage.

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Who is it Really Helping?

The program’s purpose is to “equip students in under-resourced schools with the fundamental coding skills and professional experiences that together create access to careers in technology.” But we’re getting just as much out of the experience as the students that come to TpT each week.

Our Engineers say it’s rewarding and makes them better Engineers. They’re being forced to “get back to basics” and put concepts into non-techie terms. It’s also a really good reminder of what it’s like to be a teenager today. “Most of us are not even parents (and some would argue we’re kids ourselves) but sharing with our kids those moments of success and failure surely throws us back to when we first learned how to code. It’s a great feeling to be an enabler to others futures. We sure do look forward to those Wednesdays” says Peleg.

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The “in-office” coding program happening at Teachers Pay Teachers sprung from a program that Amit Bhattacharyya, TpT’s Senior Data Scientist is involved in. Amit spends two mornings a week helping a local New York City teacher teach Computer Science in his classroom through Microsoft’s TEALS program. Amit explains that he was inspired to get involved in the TEALS program because there is a massive shortage of computer science teachers in schools and that TEALS pairs tech professionals with high school teachers across the country.

More Ways TpT Stays Connected to The Classroom

Each year, Team TpT’ers are asked to do at least two visits to a classroom of their choosing. We ask everyone to do this so we can experience how diverse and demanding day-to-day classroom life is for our educators. Some staff members have returned to their childhood schools to be greeted by former teachers (yes, some of us are that young), while others have visited family or friends who are teachers. Some have even visited TpT Teacher-Authors’ classrooms. We then report back during company meetings, and it’s always a highlight to hear about the different experiences each staff member has had and the huge variety of schools and classrooms around the country.

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We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about some of the ways in which Team TpT’ers are staying involved in teaching and education. There’s no perfect solution for how to help everyone. But we sincerely believe staying abreast of policy changes and remaining involved in educational programs helps us better understand the needs of our audience, and it’s a truly a great experience!