I didn't realise just how unusual it was for girls to enjoy coding, because my best friend was eagre to learn all the things my cousin taught me, and together we created several text-based games. She went on to learn some C++ and now teaches math to high school students in Colorado. We loved coding because it felt like a secret club that only we had access to. Our other friends just thought it was weird, and wondered why we'd rather write code than go swimming or ride our bikes or hang out at the mall (or whatever 7th graders do normally).
Anyway, fast forward 18 years and my coding knowledge has not progressed all that much. After turning down a full scholarship to go to a technical university and studying computer engineering, and then becoming an English and History major, and eventually a teacher of the humanities, I just didn't keep going with coding. I really regret that choice.
But coding taught me something that I wouldn't have learned otherwise - it taught me how to think. I learned the if...then statements before I knew that was a way of making logical arguments. I learned that patterns were incredibly important when creating complex code long before I saw the way patterns shape every sort of text and the way in which we understand the world. I learned not only how to solve my own problems, but how to find them. I learned that failure just meant that I hadn't mastered it...yet.
Those understandings have shaped the person I've become profoundly. I wonder what would have happened if one of my high school teachers had offered me the chance to learn how to code. There weren't classes in coding at my high school, and none of my teachers knew how much I was able to do just from self-study. And in a way, that has sort of defined the kind of learner I've become - I learn socially, but not in a way that is monitored or directed by the people in charge of me. I collaborate and share ideas freely, because I know that giving my ideas to someone means that part of me changed part of them forever, and that is the only real way to change anything in this world. I love finding problems, and I love solving problems. And I love having a community around me to support me when I need it, to kick my ass when I need it, and to remind me that my worth is not in what I do, but who I am.
I am extremely blessed to now have a best friend who reminds me of that daily, and a community at school and on Twitter who play a significant supporting role.
So I wanted my students to have that. To feel the thrill of not knowing how to do something, and the excitement when they figure it out. I saw that today. There were students betting each other they could figure it out first. There were tons of celebrations and shouts of "I MADE IT TO THE ZOMBIES!" (which is lesson 12 out of 20 in the code.org tutorial) constantly. There were students who finished walking around the room offering help, but never just doing it for the person.