We love hearing from our volunteers and their experiences of running Code Clubs across the UK.
We’d like to kick things off as we start the new academic year by hearing from Steve Manson, who runs a Code Club at Bucklebury C.E Primary School near Reading.
We asked him a bit about his experiences with Code Club to date:
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a Code Club volunteer?
The biggest challenge I have found is getting the right level in my leading. By which, I mean understanding the competency of the group I’m working with and how hard I can push in terms of them being able to take on board the ideas and principles behind programming.
How’s your relationship with the school at which the club is run? Have you encountered any issues, and if so how did you deal with them?
My local school is great, I’m Vice Chair of the Governors as well, so my relationship with the school as a whole is very strong. I know most of the parents of the school as well as the kids as it is a small village school of 125 pupils. Luckily there have been no major issues to overcome. One or two clubbers need prompting every now and then to focus and get back on task, but Sally the teacher is wonderful and steps in if it is a discipline issue.
What’s it like working with 12 primary school kids?
Herding cats comes to mind! No honestly, it is great fun and you get asked a lot of questions that can make you think and re-evaluate your ideas.
Some club leaders have found it difficult having to print out loads of copies of our projects every week, how do you deal with that?
I used to print loads, but now I just direct the kids to the website and get them to download the projects on their PCs. Negates the whole issue. If they weren’t able to do that I would download the projects to a stick and use the whiteboard projector to display the handouts or load them directly to their PCs. Basically there are many ways of overcoming that issue.
Some clubs have problems with the IT systems at schools, is that something you’ve come across, and if so how did you deal with them?
Fortunately my school has a very active Parent Teacher Association who have managed to get a suite of 30 plus PCs. Also I have a limited budget to buy bits for Code Club as well. Recently they let me spend £300 on weather station kits for the Raspberry Pis. Going forward I know that I will be asking them for more funding for various things, but I’m keeping quiet on those for now.
How does your employer feel about you taking time out to lead a Code Club? How do you manage your workload?
I have recently changed jobs and I made a point of highlighting my commitment to Code Club as part of my interviews. In some ways I think it made me a better option for them having a programmer who is passionate about what he does to the point of wanting to teach others. Even so, I load the front end of the work week to ensure that I have accrued enough time to go and also if I have to stay at work for releases etc there is another club leader who can step in to help, as I do for her.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of starting a club?
Do it, no question. It is immensely rewarding on so many levels: from seeing the kids light up when they solve a problem, to being able to coordinate and communicate to a varied bunch of individuals. This is directly linked to how I work with people in the office. Though I think that the kids can be more mature than my management at times…. Kidding, but the principles are there and being able to guide and mentor them is a fun challenge.
Got more questions? Get in touch with our team at firstname.lastname@example.org