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I am a relatively junior (just 1 year of experience) software developer who has just been approached through a friend about becoming a computer science instructor for a local public college.

Instructors are difficult for these colleges to find as the jobs pay poorly (not a concern as I already make good money), so they are quite hard up for instructors. My friend works for the college and is basically asking for a favour to keep all the classes from being cancelled.

I am certainly open to it as a community service project of sorts, but am not really sure what I would be getting into and the possible risks or benefits of doing this.

Some things I have already thought of:

  1. Does my employer prohibit second jobs? No, as it is a government office and it is explicitly permitted so long as it is properly logged and reported.
  2. Might it interfere with my work? My project is only used during 9-5 business hours. That means that it is fine for it to only be fixed during regular business hours.
  3. Might it wear me out? I am someone with no personal life, so I spend most of my waking hours working on one project or another.

What else do I need to consider when making the decision whether to help them out?

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    What happens when your personal circumstances change? No longer single etc... – Solar Mike Jan 3 at 6:43
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    Do it. I assume you have more than one year of experience if we count your own college experience. But don't be surprised if the tenured instructors take your classes after you've developed the materials for them. – Stephan Branczyk Jan 3 at 10:06
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Honestly this sounds like a great opportunity. I can think of some big pros

  • Learning - Teaching is a fantastic way to find out what important things you don't know, and consolidate the things you do know. You can think you know a topic really well, come to teach it to others, and find out you really don't. You learn a lot going through the process. Doing talks at conferences gives a similar benefit.
  • Experience - Having taught at a college, especially as such a junior Engineer, is really impressive and will make your resume stand out. If I were interviewing you, it'd be one of the top things I'd want to talk to you about.
  • Network - You'll teach a variety of people who will before long be out working in a wide variety of companies and roles. They'll know your name, and respect you if you're a good teacher. Presumably the college also has a reasonably sized faculty of experts in various fields - same applies. These will likely turn out to be good people to know, and relationships to have.

As you've stated, your personal situation seems to work pretty well for spending the extra hours on top of a full time job doing this. If you have the time and want to do it, I would honestly grab this with both hands, it'll likely be great.

The only caution I'd advise is around your friend, and the word favour. I'd strongly suggest making sure your friend is clear that it's in no way a personal favour to them, because it's not. It's a professional opportunity for you. Should you try it, and it doesn't work out for a variety of potential reasons, you don't want to be worried about it affecting your friendship or it being bad for them professionally if you leave. Just make sure your friend is clear that's a possibility, before you go in.

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What else do I need to consider when making the decision whether to help them out?

What I'm missing in your thoughts is whether you are qualified to do this. Can you teach a college class? Having the knowledge that is taught does not mean you can automatically teach it. Teaching is not just standing there, randomly rambling about knowledge you have. It is a job, it takes skill. If you think you can teach because you have watched teachers, that's like saying you can drive because your parents drove you around often enough as a kid. That's not the way it works.

Do you know how to prepare lessons based on some pedagogical concepts? Do you know how to prepare and grade exams? Do you know the legal framework you will work in? For example, can you make sure you do not discriminate against a pregnant women in your class to the point of being sued, simply because you did not know better? Do you know how to handle students that do inappropriate things? How do you grade someone who flunked their test because they got a message 10 minutes before that a friend died in a car crash? Do you know whether you are allowed to grade it differently? Or maybe have them retake it? Are you prepared that someone might say "if you give me a 'D', I might as well just kill myself"?. Do you know what to do in that situation? Because there is a class of kids out there that clearly deserve a teacher that knows their job. And make no mistake, the actual content you teach is not the job. Teaching is.

My point is that teaching is not something you can automatically do just because you know the material. It takes skill and you have not mentioned any course or education that would have prepared you for it.

First and foremost, make sure you can do the job you are asked to do.

That said, if you have the time, go find a course that trains you to train others. It's rewarding, it's fun, it's not just all dry theory. Teach people, it's the best way to learn something yourself. Just don't jump in unprepared. You don't deserve that, your students don't deserve that.

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  • To be fair, a lot of the teaching staff at universities don’t have formal education in pedagogy; they just learn it in a sort of master-apprentice relationship with established lecturers. Working as a teaching assistant/tutor/sessional academic underneath an established professor would help to mitigate a lot of the issues you brought up. – nick012000 Jan 4 at 14:55

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