After the Core Curriculum

Simply share my experience and thoughts after finishing Launch School’s Core Curriculum.

Photo by Ryan Johnston on Unsplash

It was 2 months ago since I finished the last interview assessment about ‘DOM and Asynchronous Programming with JavaScript’ in LaunchSchool. And I want to share my thoughts and realizations about the entire journey I’ve been taken, especially things I learned except for programming fundamentals, which is stressed a lot by the Core Curriculum, as well as LS’ pedagogy for the Core Curriculum.

Would you rather get what you want slowly or get what you don’t want much faster?

This is the title of another post I wrote when I finished half of the curriculum. And I believe it still applies when talking about the importance of accumulating fundamentals. And of course programming fundamentals are the most important things I gain at LS.

The learning experience at LS changes the way I learn things. The way of learning fundamentals from bottom to up can really gives me confidence about my knowledge at a certain level. On the other hand some of the courses start with a “What to focus” lesson, this gives a structure and map to what we are going to learn so that we won’t lost in the various topics. “Focusing on fundamentals while keeping an eye on the big picture” is a very powerful learning state, at least when learning fundamentals about programming.

And now if I decide to seriously learn something well, whether an instrument or swimming, I won’t believe tutorials entitled like “crushing programing(or anything else) in n` months” . What I believe now is: deliberately choose things I want to learn, then try to find the best professional instruction I know, then invest in time, energy and maybe money, then the outcome will follow. This is the dullest way from a short-term perspective, but it’s the most effective and solid way from a long-term perspective. Most of us tend to overestimate the short-term profit but underestimate the long-term profit of patiently and systematically doing something.

One of my realizations during the journey is that I am not really a smart one, but I can choose to be a studious one, and most of the time being the studious one is not so bad. The feeling of studious or strenuous is not always a bad thing especially when you are learning something new. When I recall my learning process at LS, I can rarely remember a single “clever moment” about solving a problem. But I can still remember vividly the picture when I took hours to solve a problem about encryption and decryption, I can even recall the sunshine and smell of the room that day. And I think moments like this are the time I was really gaining things.

There were times I went into a state of rushing, hurrying, and couldn’t get rid of the anxiety about my future, then I would contemplate this sentence — “Would you rather get what you want slowly or get what you don’t want much faster?” — then choose the right thing to do.

Improvements on English

I started learning English seriously 2 years before I joined LS, by that time my ability of English was roughly as a high school student in China. I could only write simple sentences with simple vocabularies, but I was absolutely unable to express a simple idea by speaking English.

Now I still remember the situation when I took 8 hours spread in 3 days to practice following a 90-second lecture. I even slapped on my mouth several times when I failed again and again on speaking some difficult sentences. But after 2 years’ practice especially on speaking I was able to join LS. And I could feel my English has been keeping improving since I started my journey in LS.

Improvements on writing. The whole curriculum is in English, so you must read English. When you want to ask for help on forum or Slack or StackOverflow, you must use English. When you want to take a written test, you must use English. When you want to share something, you must use English… It’s the using of English not the learning of English pushed me forward.

When I try to express a question clearly so that others can help me, I have to think by English, I have to match pieces of my idea with my limited vocabulary, I have to organize a sentence that’s grammatically correct. As what I am trying to do now. Also tests within the curriculum require using answers that are concise and precise. This enforces me to choose the most accurate terms as possible as I can, and to know the critical information about a question, then to write concisely and logically.

The whole process is strenuous but it really helps me to think clearly and write clearly.

Improvements on speaking English. Speaking is harder than writing. Speaking is a faster processing process, all the ideas, words, grammar, pronunciations are rapidly compounded in your brain. And there’s time limit, you may take 1 hour to write and touch a sentence , but with talking you can’t do this. So it needs practice.

I use a method called “shadowing” to practice my pronunciation and to gain vocabularies and it’s pretty dull. But the most important practice is the self-explanations I take when I try to understand a concept or when I try to solve a programming problem, and of course there’s the final practice — the interview test. These are also the moments of “using English”, it’s hard and there could be failures but I enjoy this practice. I know if I can’t explain things clearly to myself, then I can’t explain to others either. Then how can I pass the interview tests during the curriculum. And many students think interview tests are the hardest part during this journey and I too thinks so.

But why improvements on English means a lot to me? Because English prevails in the world of programming, most programmers communicate with it and it is used everywhere.

I am getting more interested about math

This is another major benefit I gain in LS. I used to hate math. One reason was I didn’t do well on all the math tests since I was in mid-school, another reason was I thought why we had to do all these various calculations, it’s boring and useless, why couldn’t we just use a calculator and yes at that time I thought math was all about calculating. But as I began to study at LS, I was taught about ways to break things down logically , solving problems step by step, and abstract concepts from real life then express them in code. Meanwhile I luckily stumbled on Khan Academy and began learning math from the very basics. Gradually I changed my attitude about math.

I began to appreciate the highly abstracted concepts in math and how we can logically come to a conclusion based on some very simple things. And I began to see different ideas of math when I am learning programming. Now I am learning math because I am interested in it not because I have to learn it.

Why I haven’t left immediately after having finished the Core

I finished the backend course relatively fast, but since then due to my personal issues I had less time spent on LS, so I progressed slower than before and rarely connect with LS community which was a bad thing.

In order to get the most out of the Core Curriculum, I decide to take a big review on the whole curriculum. On the other hand, the structure of the curriculum has evolved over the last year. There’s a separation of Ruby track and Javascript track, some course content got updated such as the networking foundation course and by the way I love the new course version. And yes while doing the big review I am choosing some new courses to learn. And of course the most important thing is to get some real world experience about programming. If you have any suggestion just let me know : )

conclusion

I gain more than programming fundamentals at LS and I believe all these come from choosing the right way to do the right thing. It sounds simple, it’s not just about hard working, it’s more about courage and choice.That’s all my sharing about my journey at Launch School, nothing very much but hope this can be helpful to you.