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I'm interested in the experience of software developers who have become programming teachers, -- at a junior college, teaching college or high school.

I'm wondering if anybody has made the switch and if they've stuck with it or if they've gone back to industry -- and why.

I've been thinking for the past 7 years (on and off) that I'd like to try it out and see what it's like. I have friends that are teachers and seem to love their jobs. From what my friends know of me and from what I know of myself, I think I'd like it.

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What is motivating you do do this? –  JeffO Aug 2 '11 at 3:52
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Thank god you had some experience before becoming a teacher. I had teachers that just didn't know what they were talking about... =/ You've started off on the right foot. Good luck! –  wleao Aug 2 '11 at 4:06
    
I've thought about this too. Maybe as an option after retiring from my day job. –  JohnFx Aug 2 '11 at 4:40
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4 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

I'm a full time developer, mostly C++.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to teach a C++ class for three semesters at night, at the local community college.

The first semester was very hard work, I probably prepared for four hours for each hour of class. The second semester was a bit less stressful, but still took a lot of my time.

It wasn't until the third time I taught the course that I felt that I was delivering a good product to my students while not spending all my spare time on class preparation. By that time I had essentially written my own textbook for C++ 101.

Money wise, if I assigned any value at all to my time teaching was a loser. Community Colleges pay almost nothing to adjutant instructors. Yet they often have many applicants for each adjutant teaching slot. Why?

I think it helped me professionally, it made me a much better C++ developer. And it's fun working with the students, at least with 99% of them. Most of the students in my classes were working adults who were highly motivated. Every class had at least one 'ringer', another professional C++ dev who for some reason was attending this class on his company's dime. These 'students' kept me on my toes, but I wonder why their company would pay them to take a class that they were clearly overqualified for (I'm looking at you IBM and Apple).

I'd probably still be doing it, except the department head who hired me was replaced by another full time professor who brought in her own person.

I'm 59 now, my kids are grown, my house is almost paid for. I'd take a Community College teaching gig in a heartbeat now if I could find one. At this point in my life I could take the huge pay cut. Ten or twenty years ago? No way could I have afforded to teach full time.

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The school where I did my master's had an adjunct professor option which was pretty option - they had a core staff of tenured professors and then a pretty big adjunct staff of people who worked full or part time in the industry and taught at nights or around their industry jobs. They used these folks frequently for on-job-site classes that the university arranged with local companies. It was often a win-win in the Boston area, where traffic can be horrible, since many of the adjunct professors had better commutes to companies that hired the school for the on the job training.

Having done both undergrad and grad work in "institutes of technology" that prioritize preparation for and experience in the industry over academic credentials, I have to say that having professors fresh out of industry or professors who hopped in and out of industry work was a huge win. There was a lot more of a reality check in our classes, and it seemed like the knowledge I got was a whole lot better for the professor's experience.

I'd recommend looking up a similar arrangement in your local area - you might be able to test-drive professor-ship to see if you like it that way.

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If money isn't a problem, then I think you should go for it. As you know, if you won't find pleasure in teaching you can always come back.

It's better for kids to learn from somebody who actually know how to do things, that from those who know how things should theoretically be done.

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+1 My high school CS teacher didn't know his ass from a hole in the ground. –  Glenn Nelson Aug 2 '11 at 14:01
    
my best professor was teaching for fun and worked in industry. –  Kevin Aug 2 '11 at 16:13
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Approach any institution that teaches classes evenings or weekends (or any at all if your current employment has the flexibility to let you teach during the day) and offer to teach a single course. This should be a topic you care about and know well. If you come to love it and it's the part of your day you look forward to, you have your answer. If it's harder than you ever dreamed and you wish you could just go back to writing code, you have your answer.

I used to do a lot of corporate training - it was lucrative and fun. I also taught one or two courses a year at the local university. I don't do training any more but I still teach the OO course at the university. I know I'm making a difference, and it's enjoyable as all get-out.

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