And So It Begins

hack-reactor learning

Alright Freetime, it was fun, but we officially have to have to say our goodbyes for now. I had a great time with you over the last two weeks; we had some epic walks through Portland, ate a few fantastic meals, caught up with friends, and just lolly-gagged in general. However, I started Hack Reactor a few days ago, and it’s really time to let go.

Hack Reactor is a tough program to get into; before beginning, I definitely tried to do everything I could to feel prepared going into it. At the same time, I also didn’t want to “burn out” before even starting, so I took a step back from programming the week before it started. During this time, our cohort made a Slack channel so we could get to know each other and discuss the precourse work. I continued to monitor our channel even while taking a break from everything else and started to notice just how advanced some of my classmates were going to be. Even if I’d wanted to, I couldn’t really engage with many of their conversations, because I had no idea what they were talking about. So, I lurked and tried to soak up as much as possible, while trying to tell myself that it didn’t matter, and Hack Reactor wouldn’t have accepted me if it did.

Of course, all of this still made me a bit anxious, because I didn’t want to be behind before I’d even begun! The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized that my lack of understanding was primarily due to a language barrier. Yes, I am a native English speaker, but there is a huge amount of jargon present in computer science to which I just have not yet been exposed. In teacher terms, these words are referred to as “Tier 3”–they are low frequency, and context specific. Research also shows that the average human brain is only capable of deeply learning about seven new “chunks” of information at a time. This is a surprisingly small amount of information, so it means that I’ll need to be careful to only focus on the vetted concepts given in the curriculum. I therefore have decided it’s best not to worry about all of the random terms being thrown out by my classmates until Hack Reactor decides they are relevant.

This does not mean that these discussions haven’t been making me nervous! On top of that, the first few of days with Hack Reactor have been packed with activity. In addition to reviewing the precourse material, we have also been practicing our skills with git, learning how to use floobits, and working to collaborate effectively with our partners. We also had our first timed self-assessment. It was intense, and I think almost all of us were mentally and emotionally exhausted afterward. Fortunately, Hack Reactor does a fantastic job of allaying fears of failure by using the first few days to instill healthy learning attitudes. Honestly, I wish I could have shown some of their lectures to my students when I was still teaching!

It is clear that the next few months will be far from easy, and I definitely will not be “at the top of the class.” That’s fine though! I ready to be challenged and am actually looking forward to the struggle. I just have to remember that in the end, the feeling of accomplishment will be that much sweeter.

Written on July 2, 2015