Volunteers stories: Polly from Auto Trader (Part 2)

Last week we heard from Polly, a Code Club volunteer from Auto Trader who started her first Code Club six months ago.

She has written in depth about her experiences running a Code Club in Manchester, chronicling her journey from (in Polly’s words) “ a nervous wreck to a (more or less) confident Code Club leader”.

Previously we heard about the preparations Polly took before getting her club started – including securing a DBS check via STEMNET and visiting the school at which her club is hosted.

This week, Polly shares her thoughts from her first club session, reflecting on how the children progressed over the weeks, and how she dealt with challenges and overcame them by using different techniques to keep the children engaged and excited…

Before the start of my first Code Club session I needed to make a few preparations.  I printed out copies of the first three projects. From the school I had learned that some of the kids had already done the first project a few months before so I wanted to make sure I had something for them. A note on the printing: color is essential! Also the kids really didn’t like it when I printed the instructions horizontally with two sheets on each side…it may just have been their personal preference but they really did seem to prefer double sided vertical A4 stapled top left corner.

These things seem quite basic and maybe even obvious; but a few times I hadn’t gotten around to stapling the instructions before hand and it resulted in a fair bit of confusion as the kids got their sheets all mixed up. They generally don’t need much excuse to get distracted, so little things like this helped keep them on the right track.

The big day finaTeacher Robot 001lly came; the first day of Code Club. I made sure I got there ridiculously early, but there was good need. First off, I had my DBS certificate photocopied so that the school office could keep a copy. Then there was logging in as a teacher on to one of the computers and figuring out how to use the smart whiteboard. I brought up one of the projects I had been working through on the projector so that everyone could see what they were working towards.

The first session really was a blur, once they arrived it seemed like minutes until they were leaving again. I tried quite hard to learn all of their names, there were only ten of them but I still failed miserably.

One of my main observations of that day was their determination to follow the instructions exactly, or not at all. This left me either trying to encourage them to think outside of the box, by choosing different sprites or to color them different colors, or futilely trying to get them to stay on track. Neither yielded positive results!

However, I did eventually find that the kids responded really well to me showing them my versions of the projects they were doing. The little changes I had made to them, things as simple as color changes, really helped them to move away from just following the instructions line for line, even if they did then just try to recreate what I had done.

After the first couple of clubs, I think the novelty of me as a new volunteer had worn off. The kids began being unruly, spent more time drawing sprites than programming them and would at times be on YouTube within seconds of your back being turned. This was when the promise of a certificate came in useful.

I think it was around the fourth or fifth club that I welcomed them into the room with the certificate up on the screen. They were all asking how they could get one and became competitive with one another over who would get theirs first. When it came to handing these out I made sure I laminated them first so that they looked the part and the teacher took them to be presented in assembly. You could tell that this meant a lot to the kids and they were really proud of their achievement. This really helped to positively reinforce the message I was trying to get across about the need to complete projects and push the boundaries of creativity.

Top Tip! Why not team up with a colleague to run your club so you can share the responsibility of running your Code Club?