Saturday, May 7, 2011

Foundations is Over, and the Class Survived :)!!!

So last Saturday, I had the chance to bring to a close my first AST BBST Foundations class with me as the Lead Instructor. This was a cool experience in the sense that, while I've been part of this class for five iterations, this was the first time where I was setting the pace and the expectations.

It's a strange feeling. On one hand, after five times through Foundations, I figured this would be easy to do, but the truth is, there's a lot to keep track of and try to keep everything on track. For those who've taken the class, this may seem obvious, but for those who haven't, this is not an easy class. There's a lot to learn, to accomplish, and to encourage other students to work together over a surprisingly short period of time. It's a month long, but that month flies by very fast.

Each class is different, in the sense that each group of participants brings their own experiences to the course, and as such, each sees things a little bit differently. Each class, it seems a different set of questions develop as people determine the answers for the questions in the class. Oftentimes, I feel inadequate to answer those questions. Not because I don't understand the questions, but because I understand the questions as they relate to me and my experiences. My breakthroughs are mine, and other people's breakthroughs are theirs and come in their own time. My frustration is that, try as hard as I might, I can't teach someone anything they themselves aren't ready or willing to learn.

I remember as a kid reading Guitar Player magazine. Back in 1980, when I was 12 years old, I read an interview with Lesie West (legendary blues rock guitar player in the 70's who went on to teach guitar in New York years later). Leslie said something that I have been thinking a lot about lately... he said "I can't teach you how to play guitar. I can show you how to play guitar, but that's it. I can teach you how to teach yourself!" I had that experience during this class.

Now, don't get me wrong, it's not like we had a bunch of people who were not already good at testing (yes, there were many different levels of experience, some long time practitioners balanced out by some junior testers, as always). What was clear, though, was that the class offers a framework for testing and understanding testing, and each person approached that framework a little bit differently. Were I to take the idea that I would teach them, then I would be teaching them my understanding of it. That's not the point, though, as the challenges I face are not the same ones they will face. The tools and the approaches are context driven, and understanding the context (I believe) is important.

I deal with a podcast each week, and literally each one I produce, I learn some new trick or method that helps make that one better than the week before (subjectively speaking, of course). After more than 40 podcasts, I find it interesting that I still learn some new trick each time I do it, often when I'm doing something I've done dozens of times. Why is that? Is it because I've suddenly become aware of something that was obvious before, or is it because I experimented with something, saw the results, and finally put 1+1+1+1+1 together? I think it's more of the latter, because we are learning at our rate, and often that rate will be different for different people, because they will focus on what is relevant to them over everything else. The other details are nice and interesting, but they will not be at the forefront of my mind if I'm not actually doing something with it beyond curiosity.

This is a long winded way for me to say that I've had a great time being the Lead Instructor for Foundations, and I'm happy that my participants enjoyed and learned through the experience. Whether it was because of me or in spite of me will remain to be seen (and is ultimately irrelevant, really). I think you all were awesome, and it was a pleasure and a privilege to lead your class. I hope to see you in future classes, and thanks for teaching me a lot more than I probably taught you :).
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