What I Learned by Teaching Robotics

Jared Noll is a first year Teaching Fellow at Eagle Academy in Newark, New Jersey. I knew virtually nothing about robots when I was assigned to support a group of volunteers in leading a robotics class at Eagle Academy in Newark, New Jersey. I felt like I had little to offer the volunteers who were relying on me.  Needless to say, the first few weeks of the class were pretty stressful.

2012-12-12 04.38.00 (1)Luckily, the four volunteer Citizen Teachers from Cognizant were there to guide me through the material, just as I was there to guide them through being in front of the classroom. Every Wednesday after our class they stayed late to discuss the following week’s plans, and how to best lead the lesson. Even though I wasn't 100% clear on the material, I was confident that our lessons would go smoothly because we worked so well together.

After some time, I got into the swing of things. Robotics became easier to teach when I saw how much the students loved working with the Citizen Teachers and how well the Citizen Teachers knew the material. As soon as they walked in the door, the kids became more focused and willing to get to work. They were excited to learn about engineering and programming. I fed off of their enthusiasm.

The real fun began when the students started actually building the robots. They were broken up into groups, and each was assigned a role to perform to keep everyone on task and working. While most of the kids loved the apprenticeship class, there were some students who were less than thrilled with their roles.

2012-12-12 05.17.18One student, Wilkins, refused to work with his fellow students on the robot, and spent a few classes moping and unwilling to contribute. When I talked to him about it, he simply told me that building a robot was boring, and that he wanted to be moved to another apprenticeship. After some coaxing, he agreed to work with a different group on their robot. By the end of the semester, he was begging me to let him sign up for Robotics again in the spring.

To see a student change so much in just a few weeks and to show so much pride in his work is a tremendous feeling. Teaching an apprenticeship certainly isn’t easy, but like most everything else in life, hard work pays off. The Citizen Teachers I got to work with taught me a great deal about the subject matter, and in turn I was able to help show them how to manage a classroom. It showed me the real impact that Citizen Schools has on kids by connecting young educators with professionals from the community to teach students incredible topics-- like robotics. I learned that the volunteers and the Citizen Schools Teaching Fellows have much to offer each other, and that when everyone is in sync-- the students  will be inspired.

You can join the movement to inspire kids too. Even if you've never taught before, your Teaching Fellow partner will be there to show you the ropes. You'll both learn something together. Sign up today.