WOC 3: organizing a webdev course for Ukrainian refugees with carefree journaling

Previous topics

  1. WOC: I made a tool for goals that are hard to do consistently
  2. WOC 2: Some usecases for carefree long-term journaling

Abstract

I promised to show more non-therapeutic usecases for carefree journaling — i.e. you keep track of what you have done, but you neither use todo/today lists, nor try to bite yourself or even “keep on track” in any way. I use WOC (a tool I made), but you can use anything.

One of those usecases is “organize a webdev course for Ukrainian refugees”.

The story

I live in Warsaw right now, I am a Russian speaker, I know webdev, and I like teaching. All the prerequisites seem to be in place. So one day I thought “alrighty, would be nice to do something useful, like a webdev course”.

I didn’t immediately make a board for organizing it, or anything like that, because it was still in the incubator stage. I just went ahead and told three people over the course of the next few days: “Yeah, I’m thinking about this thing, do you know any schools or places that can help me with finding a location and students?”. People were like “great idea” and gave some suggestions for other people to contact.

After three days I was already excited about doing it. Great, now’s the time to make a board.

  • Webdev course in Warsaw » Find a location
  • Webdev course in Warsaw » Curriculum
  • Webdev course in Warsaw » Misc

And some thoughts:

Then I just did nothing for a week. Occasionally I would ask random people, they would give more suggestions, I would write them down into those cards, but otherwise I did nothing.

Deciding on a curriculum

Well, okay, I didn’t do exactly nothing. I also sat down and wrote a list of things I want people to learn, and a week later I asked friends to look at it. Here’s the evolution of my curriculum thoughts (as per the journal):

  • Apr 6: Basics of HTML, basics of CSS, web inspector, JSON, YAML, TypeScript vs JavaScript, modern JS, regexes, date and time, Unix basics, Bash basics, npm, git & github, DigitalOcean, relational databases, SQL, Docker, React — JSX, React — components & props, React — state, [… and 25 more points]

  • Apr 6: That’s like 4–5 months. Will I even be in Warsaw for that long :thinking:

  • Apr 6: Might be nice to scale back and make a curriculum just for getting to the level of a junior developer, because I feel like I might die otherwise.

  • Apr 9: Talked to more people and decided that maybe I don’t have to aim at “you can get a job immediately after finishing the course”.

  • Apr 12: Talked to random people from a coffee shop, wrote a new curriculum, removed 80% of stuff.

  • Apr 14: Made a MindMeister board.

Great, now I have a curriculum. What’s the use of journaling here?

  1. It keeps the idea alive — if I have a journal entry, I will sometimes randomly remember about it. “Oh right, if I want the course I need to make a curriculum”. And it’s a thing I haven’t committed to, so I don’t feel pressured to finish it as soon as possible or whatever.

  2. I can look back on my own thoughts when I’m more sober. One day a 50-points fullstack course feels like a good idea, the next day it still feels like a good idea but I decide that maybe I shouldn’t, the next next day it doesn’t feel like a good idea at all anymore.

Finding the location

  • Apr 13: Wrote an email to one of the suggested places (Jazdow).

  • Apr 13: Found the city administration’s email. Can ask [a friend] to call them.

  • Apr 19: Jazdow still hasn’t replied.

  • Apr 25: And still. Ok, will try to call the Ukrainian House foundation tomorrow.

  • Apr 25: Actually called them today, got put on hold. I don’t like being on hold. I’ll just go there tomorrow instead of trying to call.

  • Apr 26: Wrote to some other place. Went to the Ukrainian House thing, they wrote down my email and promised to maybe write back.

  • May 6: Found a school.

Between Apr 26 and May 6 (the last two entries) I had complained to parents about how finding a location is hard; my mom suggested a Telegram group with Russian-speaking people in Warsaw; I was extremely skeptical but wrote there anyway; and like three hours later I had a location (https://fzww.pl/).

I think the use of journaling here is a tradeoff. Finding a location requires doing a bunch of small but obvious steps: call this place, talk to this person, ask in Facebook groups, etc. With some effort, they can be done pretty quickly. But I’m tired of stressing myself, so I’d rather do things only when I have motivation for them — and this motivation comes and goes randomly. So instead I do things in three weeks, but I can have many many things going on at once.

The teaching tasks

  • Webdev course in Warsaw » First lecture
  • Webdev course in Warsaw » Second lecture
  • Webdev course in Warsaw » […]
  • Webdev course in Warsaw » Learn everyone’s names
  • Webdev course in Warsaw » Keep collaborative notes
  • Webdev course in Warsaw » Find books about HTML

The pattern is similar for all of these. Decide to do the thing; write down my thoughts & take steps towards each thing when I have the motivation; think about how to scale back if necessary; accumulate a growing list of things that got done.

The result so far

I’ve done four lectures already, for a class of about ten people, and plan to keep going for at least the next month. We’ve learned the basics of HTML and CSS, and plan to tackle JS next. In maybe 6–12 months I’ll probably know if it was worth it. Overall the thing I’m most happy about is that it turns out I can organize a course without feeling like I’ve put any effort into it. It’s kinda nice.

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