When I decided to take the plunge and start teaching at Nashville Software School, I felt I was about 40% prepared for what it took to help my students be successful. Over the last four years, I've increased that bucket of knowledge to approximately 75%. I'm learning successful strategies constantly from my own experiments, and from my teammates.
Of all the things that I was completely, and utterly unprepared for was the emotional nuclear blast that occurs when the students have a successful demo day and I have to say goodbye to them. There has not been a single graduation day for any of my cohorts where I haven't cried. Sometimes the emotions hit me a bit harder than others, but they always hit.
Yes, yes, yes, I know. I'll see them again at some point. Most stay in Nashville. That's not the point!!
What is the point, though? It's quite difficult to explain.
- Pride in seeing their tremendous hard work come to fruition and having been one of their partners during that transformation.
- Accomplishment and pride in my instruction team members for guiding 25-30 people through the jungle and out to the other side.
- Sadness that I will no longer see my friends every day. By the end of the six months, we've shared a tremendous amount of discovery, frustration, laughter, failure, and successes together. They are my friends - whether they share the sentiment or not.
- Happiness that they are truly prepared to take the next step in their journey to become software developers and change their lives for the better.
- Frustration that if only I could have One. More. Month. with them, how I think I could open just a few more doors and make them better prepared.
All of these feelings are roiling around inside of me the entire day, which makes my final words to them a very emotional moment.
The Best Day
All of that buldup to say that it's not the best day for me as an instructor and coach. For me, it's the day that the announcement goes out that they found a job. It's smiles and happiness all around the school.
Every. Single. Time.
We live for that moment.
From the very first day that they walk into the building - with absolutely no idea what they got themselves into - to the day they all present their first capstone project. Through the 1:1 meetings that I have with them where they share their frustrations and glories, and I do my best to keep their spirits high and provide useful learning strategies.
I think back on the tears, the jokes, and the moments of vulnerability where they question their abilities and intelligence, and together we get them back out of that pit. Sometimes it's a daily battle, depending on what their path through life looked like before fate brought us together.
There are students who come from a fairly stable family and have a strong emotional foundation for their stressful journey through the program.
Other students have scars. Sometimes they get scars while they are making this tremendous sacrifice to make their lives better. Those are the tough days. When their lives become chaos, a classroom filled with their new friends can become a life preserver thrown at the last moment to keep their heads above water and moving forward.
Other times, students find love while they are on this journey. In fact, next month (September 2018) we are having our very first wedding between two students who met and dated while at NSS. The wedding is actually at the school, which is amazing.
All of these events get stitched together into a tapestry that defines the NSS experience, and it culminates with the job offer, and the celebration can happen.