052: Teaching WordPress with Courtney A Robertson

In episode 52, we talk to Courtney Robertson about her role as a WordPress educator, how she got there, and what she’s learned in the process.


About Courtney A Robertson:

Courtney Robertson is a WordPress instructor at Code Differently. She synthesizes all the languages under WordPress into a cohesive junior developer curriculum. When she isn’t coding, she is enjoying her 2 preschool aged children and gardening.

Find Courtney A Robertson: Courtney A Robertson | Twitter  | Instagram | LinkedIn


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Women in WP | WordPress Podcast
052: Teaching WordPress with Courtney A Robertson
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Show Notes

In 2020, the WordPress project officially launched https://learn.wordpress.org/, a website of resources to help you learn more about WordPress and share it with others. You can get involved by clicking the links below.

Transcript

Tracy:

Welcome to Women in WP, a bi-monthly podcast about women who blog, design, develop, and more in the WordPress community. Hi Women in WP listeners. This is Tracy with a quick message from our sponsor, WPRemote. WPRemote is a dedicated care plan platform that will help fuel your agency’s growth with maintenance care plans for your clients’ websites. WPRemote provides an automated workflow for you to manage multiple sites from one central dashboard with one-click updates, incremental backups, automated malware scans, firewall, uptime monitor, and more. WPRemote is created by the same great folks behind BlogVault, MalCare, and Migrate Guru. Save time, increase your revenue, and make your clients happy by trying WPRemote today for free. Learn more at WPRemote.com/womeninWP. And now, onto our show.

Angela:

Hi. Welcome to Women in WP. I’m Angela Bowman.

Tracy:

I’m Tracy Apps.

Amy:

And I’m Amy Masson.

Angela:

Our guest today is Courtney Robertson. Courtney is a WordPress instructor at Code Differently. Welcome Courtney.

Courtney:

Hello. Thank you for having me here today.

Angela:

You have an amazing voice. This is going to be lovely to edit. We’d like to start off each episode asking our guest how you got into WordPress. How did you get started?

Courtney:

This would have been around WordPress 2.3. I was teaching at the time in a high school, business education department, and I needed to set up a way to get my students files. I built a Moodle site for my class and collected things. That’s how I found open source. Then, I was like, “Oh. I need to actually have a little more text. I’ll build a website using a CMS.” I used Joomla!, and then a friend introduced me to WordPress. I found WordPress around 2.3, and I’ve been with it ever since.

Amy:

So many of us started at Joomla!

Tracy:

I did Joomla! I started B2, and then was using Moveable Type, but I did Joomla!, and I just was like, “Ah.”

Courtney:

The menus drove me nuts, having to assign things to the menus back in those days. I’m sure Joomla! Has progressed since then.

Tracy:

I’m sure, but I haven’t. And same thing with Drupal. I’ve had a hate-hate relationship with it, because I’ve struggled with it, and a timed competition thing where. Even I was like, “I don’t know, and now I only have two hours, and I’ve been up all night.”

Amy:

I like to bag on Joomla! when I haven’t used it in like 10 years.

Courtney:

I do want to be clear though that I feel very firmly about open source. No matter where the other projects are in their development and their growth cycle, I think it’s still pretty important to have open-source technology that meets different needs. I’ve just decided to find my camp in WordPress and hangout there for a long time.

Tracy:

I agree. I know my friends that think differently. Their brains work differently, so for them, Drupal or Joomla! actually makes more sense to them. For me, it’s not how my brain works, just like JavaScript. JavaScript is not how my brain works, but some people just live in JavaScript, and they can’t wrap their heads around CSS and HTML, so it’s different structure for different folks.

Courtney:

Absolutely.

Angela:

So you started early. What were you doing, and then what was your progression to doing what you’re doing now? You’ve also worked at a pretty well-known plug in company, so you’ve had quite a career. How did you get hooked in?

Courtney:

Yeah, so I was teaching at the time. We weren’t yet teaching a CMS, and in fact it’s still rare to teach CMS in some of these languages at a high school level. I had been teaching HTML and CSS, and I was growing more frustrated with the lack of resources, the extended amount of standardization and documentation. I’m very much a firm believer in the educating the world, that things should be as customized as much as possible to the learner, but at the same time was not feeling great about how much documentation that came with that process, to the point where it would stifle creativity and perhaps stifle the support even available to the individuals that needed that customization. As a second generation high school business ed teacher, I decided I am done in the education world. I had replaced the lady that supervised my mom’s student teaching for the same position. I taught at the same school that my father taught at while my father taught there before he retired.

Tracy:

Wow.

Amy:

Oh wow.

Courtney:

So I had done the education thing for a really long time, even if I wasn’t in the classroom more than a decade. It was like I was in the classroom for almost as much as they were too. I decided I wanted to start into my own web dev business, and I ran that for a number of years, mostly focused in on authors’ websites as well as realtor websites. I had a good time with that, but felt that I needed to progress maybe a little bit more. During that time, I also was starting a family and having kids. I had to make some hard choices. I had let go of most of my client work, and I had actually been a part of one of the earliest online WordPress-specific training programs, I could remember finding. It was before we had membership sites and LMS sites on top of WordPress. GFYD member, or Go For Your Dream. I was teaching with a few other people, and it was 2010 maybe.

Courtney:

Soon after that, I started into having a family and had some complications, losses, and some heartbreak through all of that. Your mental state can take a turn, and I couldn’t juggle a whole lot, frankly, for a while there. What did shift is that I was presented with an opportunity when I was pregnant with my now older son that I do get to hold, and I got to teach WordPress again in a high school setting for a long term sub position, so I was there for about half a year. It was a vo-tech, so a career technical school, and I had my students half-day. I would have some schools, and then half-day I would have the other schools. We went through being a user, customizing child themes, very beginner … How to use a plug in, beginner CSS, PHP, in that process. Then, I took another stint away for a while with kids, and I was able to then start working at The Events Calendar, at the time owned by Modern Tribe. Loved my experience there. I was able to work as a contractor.

Courtney:

Most of my contractor time was for them, although not exclusively. I put in about 15 hours a week, which was perfect because my children napped three hours every weekday, so I worked mostly when my kids were napping. Having that flexibility meant the world. Not only did I get to learn a little bit about what it’s like to work at an agency, I observed what the agency arm of Modern Tribe was doing. We were sort of divided in half, products versus agency, so I observed from a distance what agency handled. I learned very thoroughly all of this workflow process inside of the event’s calendar, all of the different job titles, positions, and who held what roles, and what are the client needs, and fulfilled this niche area almost between what the devs and their change log notes. So, when we’d go in to look at WordPress updates, and we’re like, “What’s in this update?”, and we click to read the actual logs, what the devs write there versus what does the client need to know that this means, and proofreading all of that stuff.

Courtney:

So, I converted a lot of our things into release posts. Some other folks before me got us started with that, and I was able to do a lot more work in with the devs, asking them more specific questions. Not settling for just copy and paste what they said and publish that, but asking, “What does this mean?” and then, “How does that work in the context of the knowledge base? What do our clients need to know from this? How do I communicate this information then onto the marketing folks so that their positioning thinks correctly?”, or looking over auditing all of the product pages and the data works site page too to make sure that screenshots and all that good stuff was looking great. I wasn’t doing a lot of code while I was doing that, but I learned a lot in that experience. It was just a fantastic company culture to work in.

Courtney:

This past spring/summer, shortly after COVID hit, the company that I am working with these days, Code Differently, pivoted from being an in-person bootcamp to being an online bootcamp. It’s funded entirely through the CARES Act right now from the state of Delaware, so people can be in the bootcamp without an expense to themselves. It is part of the department of labors initiative to get folks back to work. The opportunity came along for me to go full time in that, and it was in my heart to get back to working full time hours. I was fortunate. I loved my time working and having kids at home, and not needing childcare for those early years, but it’s just been a great opportunity to jump over in full time work again. Having the right place for my children meant a lot for me, especially in the middle of a pandemic. Also, being able to get back into teaching, but in an area and a way that was free of the frustrations about public education that I might still have a little bit.

Angela:

Not so much bureaucracy. Not so much, “You must do it this way, use this book and this curriculum, and follow these rules”?

Courtney:

Yeah.

Tracy:

Nice.

Courtney:

Right.

Tracy:

How old are your kids now?

Courtney:

My older son is four-and-a-half, and the younger is three. I am eager for when they are eligible for some COVID vaccines. Oh man, because we need to get to a playground again. Oh my gosh.

Tracy:

I can’t imagine.

Amy:

Yeah. I really thought that once everything went online and everybody was home, this is not sustainable for people that have little kids. My kids are teenagers. They go to their rooms. They know not to bother me or to check to see what I’m doing, but the people with little kids, that was hard. I would be on a Zoom conference with somebody, and their little kid would come wander in, cry, and they’re talking to them. They’re like, “I’m so sorry.” It’s like, I’m a mom. It is fine. It is totally fine. Take care of your kid, but for the people that still have kids at home, I don’t know how they’re handling it now.

Courtney:

Yeah. It’s a real challenge, and even my friends that are public educator teachers still, if they’ve got young children themselves, and the school teacher says, “No snow day,” if they can’t have childcare lined up for their kid, but they’re expected to be in the class, wow. I mean, even during normal pandemic time, we don’t really encourage our children to be mixing around a whole lot, but sometimes you’ve got tough choices to make. So, that’s really hard, I think, with weather, pandemic life, and all of that.

Amy:

My starter career, I call it, I was a teacher, a computer teacher. I am so glad that’s not what I’m doing now during the pandemic. I gave a talk a month ago, and I did the whole thing in a mask. It was in-person, and I’m like, “Oh my gosh. These teachers have to do this all day with the mask on,” and mine was just 45 minutes.

Courtney:

Sure, yeah.

Angela:

Yeah. I have a granddaughter who is six, and my daughter is home with her. She’s not working, which is good, but it’s really hard on these little kids, because they want to socialize too. It’s good that you have two kids, because even if they drive each other crazy, they’re also playing together and keeping each other company. They need each other so much. I feel like the kids just need the kids more than anything else. I have been taking her to a playground, but we wear a mask. We try to stay in the part of the playground where there’s not a bunch of other kids. We keep rotating around, and lots of hand sanitizer.

Courtney:

For sure. We’re really fortunate in that my older son is part of some public special ed preschool for some already obvious ADHD among a few other things, sensory processing and stuff. He actually does Zoom Circle story time through the preschool. Oh my. If you thought that life in Zoom was comical, wait until you get a gaggle full of preschoolers doing Zoom together.

Tracy:

I can’t even imagine.

Angela:

I want to join.

Tracy:

I know. I feel like this is a comedy, a sitcom. Oh my goodness. I can’t imagine. I wasn’t diagnosed with ADHD until my 30s, but if I would have known or even having that as a kid, because I don’t feel like my symptoms were very bad as a kid. They definitely came as an adult, but then I have the ability to kind of educate myself and adjust. Goodness. That sounds complex. Hopefully they’ll find their superpower from it, because everyone talks about the struggle of it, but I also have some of my most creative things, moments, and stuff because of ADHD and mental illness. With a kid and developing that remotely via Skype or whatever, Zoom and all this stuff, that’s a whole other episode right there just to kind of understand that process and see that grow.

Courtney:

Yeah.

Angela:

Everyone at home with their kids, we could just have happy hour and talk.

Courtney:

I’m down for that. In the process of all of that, mentioning that my son does have ADHD, I very firmly want to customize the education options for him as well and make some tough choices, just parenting things like he’s supposed to be due for preschool or for kindergarten next year, but there’s no vaccine for kids under six even on the horizon yet. Helping him with chunking down. My background is a public educator. I think about, “Oh. With ADHD kids, on their IEPs, I saw often we need to chunk down.” Instead of, “Get dressed,” it’s “Find a pair of pants.” So, that’s daily life right before I show up in class, is making sure my kids are up, ready, and off they go. It’s just been a real adventure trying to do Zoom preschool, teach, and lots of fun things.

Tracy:

That’s good. There’s the Spoon Theory, which some people know of, where those with kind of the neuro-divergent have a limited amount of spoons and have to very consciously divvy up. Then like, “I’m out of spoons. I can’t do that thing.” I’ve heard recently the Fork Theory, because with ADHD, one task can become five to ten right away. That image just hit home so much, because I was like, “Oh yeah. That makes a lot of sense. I am out of forks. I have washed them three times today. I can’t get it a third, fourth wind of forks to be able to function on things,” so to chunk that out with the addition of the global pandemic. Have you found any strategies, tips, or things that have been working for you and with kids?

Courtney:

With my own children, chunking things down looks like my son knows on some days he can completely dress himself. On other days, he thinks that he needs me, and he wants to regress. Some of that could be just being four, and some of it could be some of the mental divergence that happens in there. It looks more like asking him more specific questions, not just, “Get dressed.” It is down to, “Open this drawer. Find this pair of pants.” In the classroom, the way that shows up, it’s laying out activities.” In the bootcamp, we have adults that are displaced by COVID that are trying to get back to work. We have projects that are due. We also have video assignments that they watch the night before they come into class.

Courtney:

We look at the week ahead. What videos are going to be due next week, and what are the projects that are due? When are they due, and let’s start chunking those down. What’s absolutely essential, by which date? Then, what would be good is just batch, get it down. Blast through this when you’ve set aside x number of hours where this is your task, that’s your task, and get through that. It’s laying out some of that from the planning perspective. As we’re having some experience of observing how project managers work has helped, where educators are much like project managers at time, because we have to think through, “What are our deadlines, and how do we start reversing it down? What amount of creativity or flexibility time do we need?”

Courtney:

My son, between the time he gets up, we have a parenting tip of toddlers. Get the clock that lights up to tell them when they’re allowed out of the room before they get out of the crib, before they start crawling out of the crib, because then they’re trained that they can’t get out of the room until the light is on. That’s how we keep the kids in the room until it’s the right time to get up. From the time he gets up until I actually show up in class, there’s a whole lot of activity between 25 feet of my house. I’m trying to get to class, and have the background be quiet and professional for teaching online. Then, there’re kids, and they need a little bit of playtime, but they also need a little bit of structured time in that same span. It’s working with, “What are the rhythms?”, and knowing that.

Courtney:

In my class, it’s somewhat the same, where our in-class day-to-day activity time, not our projects but the activities, are the time to actually get in and play with things. This week, we’re doing a lot in advanced CSS. We are working in Bootstrap and checking out today what are the differences … Bootstrap is so classy, I say. We were doing a lot with Bootstrap this week, but it was giving them that opportunity. They know we’re going to have a routine. We have a quiz. We have activity, activity. Then, I break for lunch. Then, I have afternoon class, and whatever is going on there. Then, at night, I’m going through the videos for tomorrow. They know what the routine is. They know that the expectation is, “During this amount of time is my chance to experiment, play around, and do some things.” So where’s the appropriate context that we can make a mess and break things, and it’s okay?

Angela:

That’s amazing, because I teach a six-week course in theme customization, and kind of taking people A to Z. Also, teaching them some HTML, CSS, and PHP in that whole process, and what’s a staging site and how to go live. But that chunking down and what you’ve learned from toddlers, and I used to teach preschool. I feel like a lot of my preschool skills came to play at teaching adults.

Courtney:

Absolutely.

Angela:

Even though, “One, two, three. Eyes on me,” because adults get so distracted. It’s like, “No. You’re not to be on Facebook right now. You need to be listening to what I’m telling you about absolute positioning,” but also breaking it down like, “What do you absolutely have to get done,” because learning web development is overwhelming. It’s a lot, so we do have to kind of help people to figure out what they need to focus on.

Tracy:

[crosstalk 00:20:45] This is actually really good. I’m taking notes, because I’m teaching an online class starting next month, I think, so a couple of weeks.

Angela:

“One, two, three. Eyes on me.” That’s mine.

Tracy:

“One, two, three. Eyes on me.” It’s college, so we’ll see how that works.

Angela:

I had to pull that one out, because I was teaching a group of mostly 60 to 80 year olds.

Tracy:

I love it.

Angela:

How to build their arts portfolio website, and it was like, “Whoa. Do you see the green button? Raise your hand. Okay. Everyone see the green button? Click the green button. Did you click the green button? Raise your hand.”

Amy:

This is what I found out. Teaching adults is way harder than teaching kids. They need a lot more affirmations. They need to have everything, “Is this right? Am I doing this right?” They want you to break it down into every little thing. They don’t have the confidence to really kind of take initiative and make those connections that I think the kids just come by naturally. I don’t know what it is about the adult brain that makes that different, but I don’t think I would sign up to teach adults.

Courtney:

It really depends. What makes it more interesting is when you have some adults that are digital natives, and then you have the opposite end of the spectrum all happening in the same room. I at least can straddle. I graduated from high school in ’97. I still remember learning how to type with a typewriter. It was electric, but I learned to type. Part of that was because my mom was a typing teacher, and I was required to learn when I was in fourth grade, but I also used DOS and all of these other painful technologies.

Amy:

Doss.

Courtney:

My intro to coding was simple C over telnet in a room that faced the evening sun with a very dim projector, and we had no computers in the room. We were writing on a piece of paper with a pencil, and that’s how I learned terminal and the terminal interface, because I was telneting to a UNIX machine over dial-up to do all of this. I was really frustrated, and I hardly got through that class. It was one of those required in my sequence of courses. I wanted to go to college to be a programming teacher.

Courtney:

I loved computers, so I remember that frustration that I had, and I remember the experience of being both slightly digital native, thank you to my parents who brought computers into the home and all of that, but also the technology then was trash. It was painful. It was painful to do things that way. I remember some of those instances, and I remember what it’s like to feel lost and overwhelmed in that process. Trying to juggle both ends of the spectrum, where I’ve got some more advanced people that want to run really fast, and then I’ve got some people that are like, “You want me to click this button? Is it okay if I click this button? What happens if I click this button?” Juggling both of those at the same time without losing my patience or feeling exasperated, because I’ve got somebody like, “Don’t hold me back. I want to run. I want to run. I want to run.” Then, the other ones that are like, “Will this break things?”

Tracy:

It’s funny. I think we’re pretty much the same age, because I graduated also ’97. A lot of similar experience, a lot of parallel, because my mom was a math teacher, but then she was in charge of the computer lab when the Apple [inaudible 00:24:07] were the computer lab. I grew up with computers in the house, and I got to stay up late when we played a text adventure game, called Dandara. But you had to type in like, “Go left” or “Go north. Open the door,” but if you didn’t write it correctly, then it wouldn’t recognize it, so you had to wait till the next business day when you can call the 1-900 number, because there was no the internet. We’d get stuck. My mom would have to like, “Okay. Well, we do this.”

Tracy:

So yes, having that kind of digital, but then in high school I learned on a manual typewriter. I saw that also, especially because when I was in college, I taught a short course and that same kind of thing. Then, I’ve taught in college level in the past couple of years too, but the short course, that was when someone actually didn’t even know how to use a mouse and was in this class. So I was like, “Okay, so you hang tight. Just move the mouse around and see what that does.” Then, all these other people were going to do this stuff. When I was teaching web development in college at the college level, I found what was really helpful was the same thing. I took web development, web one and two, back when I was in college in ’99, 2000, or whatever. I had been programming. I had been teaching myself how to code since ’96, so my teacher, the professor actually, had only been coding for a year longer than me.

Tracy:

I was like, “So what should I do?”

Tracy:

She says, “Just teach yourself something else.”

Tracy:

I was like, “Oh,” so I kind of took that same mentality when in a college level it was easy to do, because I could say, “All right. Here, we’re going to do this.”

Tracy:

Then, someone would come and be like, “Okay. I don’t know. I already do all this stuff.”

Tracy:

I was like, “Then do the assignments. It’s going to take you five seconds, and then do something else you want to do. Learn something else you want, because you’ve taught yourself all this stuff, and then come up with new questions.”

Tracy:

Allowing them to kind of just, “Oh. I can just do this thing and not be held back,” and then just have that as like, “I’m a touch point for any kind of questions.” Once I kind of did that, but how do you do that in a non-college situation?

Courtney:

Yeah, so wow. That just opened up a whole lots of thoughts. I love it. In a bootcamp setting, so we’re using Zoom like everybody is using Zoom. We have the breakout rooms set up for our Zoom. We go through, first thing into the day, we have a quiz. The quiz we’re not grading like a college would be grading or whatever, but it’s just a measurement to see, “Are you staying up on the information? Are you going through the videos we’re assigning?”, and all of that. Then, they go into a little bit of explanation, review the quiz, prep for the day’s activity, and we send them off into breakout rooms to do the activity. In the workforce, I have seen cases where one developer will decide, “I’m going to go off and do it this way. I think it’s the right way, and I get it done fast,” only to find out their method conflicts.

Courtney:

Though it looks good sort of, it kind of conflicts with whatever is going on, and they haven’t learned how to communicate with the team. That does nobody any good. Last week or in last episode, I remember hearing … Probably Tracy, I think you said it, that if you know how to teach something, you actually know it really well, that it’s not just the easy-out. You actually learned it well. The more times you see people struggling through the same thing over and over, the more chance you as the instructor have to troubleshoot that one thing and figure out, “How do I present this better or more efficiently?” When you’re the student that knows how to do that thing, and you can communicate that with others, that is very similar to in the workforce how we need to build the rapport and relationship within our teams and how we’re working together. We have to communicate our ideas and find a way to get the team all together to get the project done.

Courtney:

Now, in a classroom setting, a lot of it’s independent work, but they’re there to be able to facilitate discussion with each other. That’s true also in the workforce. There’s lot of independent things that comes together later, and they need to be able to ask each other questions. One area that also sparked an idea about, I happen to be one of the two training team reps for the official WordPress training team. This past winter, it started last summer into this past winter in the U.S., the learn.wordpress.org platform launched. There, you can find lots of workshops and lesson plans. The workshops are video based, and that came out as an initiative during Coronavirus when we didn’t have meet-ups and WordCamps were sort of smaller. That is a place that people can go learn content on demand, all about lots of WordPress. The lesson plans’ area was designed originally, and I’ve been contributing to it since 2014.

Courtney:

That was originally planned to be lesson plans that meet-up facilitators could make use of at meet ups, although certainly open to anyone that would like to use those lesson plans to do whatever they need to do with it. Educators go into a teaching scenario, where we know, “This is what I’m going to cover that day, and here are activities or exercises. Here is the presentation I’m going to run through,” but behind the scenes, I’ve also got this outline that tells me, “Talk about this at this point. Here’s approximately how long it is. Here are the objectives that we’re going to cover during this.” Somebody that is doing training behind the scenes has to have some organization to what they’re doing. They don’t just walk into class that day and have no plans. What you see on the front end is not always what I’m looking at. Our lesson plans are there for anybody that would like to help facilitate, but it can also be a springboard into creating the video workshops.

Courtney:

Once you know something really well and you could help other people, we’re running discussion groups after video workshops. We would like people to help contribute videos to the workshop’s area. We would certainly welcome people to contribute lesson plans. You don’t even have to be a teacher on that side of it, but to do basic things. Proofreading the lesson plan. Can you grammar check it for us? Please. Or code review, or design. We need some featured images to be able to share when these links get shared out to social media sources. There’s lots of ways that people can contribute to things. There are lots of ways to make use of the material that’s there. When you surround yourself, if you’re really looking to improve your own skills, even if you think you know something well, when you start teaching it to others, you find out, “Oh. I could do this better” or “They showed me something new, because they had this problem,” or lots of great ways to continue still learning and still developing ourselves.

Angela:

So people can get involved with Make WordPress, the training team, is what they want to reach out to.

Courtney:

Yes.

Angela:

For this, and so what you’re saying is that pretty much anyone who has a desire to teach or help other people learn, you have lots of little bits and pieces that people can contribute to without maybe devoting a ton of time, just like a single video or just proofread a thing?

Courtney:

Yes. Absolutely. On the learn.wordpress.org site, you’ll see ways to submit a video. If you would like to do the entire process of making a video and getting that to fruition and published, that’s an option. If you would like to jump in and say, “I’d just like to grammar check some stuff, because I can learn some things while I’m proofreading content, that’s also an option.

Angela:

If you would like to take the meet-up lesson plan idea, that’s something that even meet-ups, we take it I think for granted in the U.S. how accessible our internet is. I was hearing from [inaudible 00:32:10] on community team about how parts of India are working, and they’re mostly using data plans on phones tethered to a laptop. Data is expensive. If the meet-up facilitator would like to take a lesson plan and be the one to do the presentation, whether that’s online, in-person when we get there, those are cool ways to do it too. Even in the United States, I know my mother-in-law lives in Wyoming, and she can only get satellite internet. With snow, that’s not always reliable. Even in the U.S., there are times where things like a lesson plan would be really amazing to make use of. Yes.

Tracy:

I love that.

Amy:

Yeah. I love the way you use the word “facilitate,” and I just had a flashback when you said that. When I was teaching back in the olden days, I had a lesson that we called Facilitation. They were in groups, and they had to figure out how to teach material that had not been taught to them. They had to learn it, and they had to teach it. At the end of the semester, I’d give them a little review. “What did you like? What would you change?” Everybody, hands down, that was their favorite unit of the whole semester, because they really had to put thought into it, think about how to present it, and play off what the rest of the kids in the class were doing. I think they learned more from that than anything I gave them in a lesson.

Courtney:

Definitely. That’s how we end up retaining it. When we not just absorb audio, video, whatever your learning styles is. Not just absorbing it, but flipping around and then teaching it. I use “teach.” I want to put a slight disclaimer to this. When you say the word “teach,” there is some context to that, that professional educators know not just anyone is allowed to be into a regular education environment and claim to be the teacher. There’re some stipulations to that, but when it comes down to, “Take a lesson plan and go to a meet-up,” anybody can certainly help themselves to that.

Angela:

Yeah. I love what you’ve been doing on the training site. I actually got roped in after on a contributor day, and it was like, “Oh. This is how it goes.” It’s like the mafia or something. [crosstalk 00:34:22] They rope you in, they get you on their Slack channel, they start like-

Courtney:

Come on in.

Tracy:

They show up at your door.

Courtney:

Well, there’s a few people that lived maybe a half-an-hour away from me that I know I could probably drive there and say, “Let’s do a thing,” but I’ll wait until after COVID ends. But that to say, if you ever have any questions, concerns, thoughts of, “How do I know what’s going on, and where can I turn to?”, I would definitely suggest two spots. If you go to WordPress.org, you’ll see the learn tab now at the top of WordPress.org. That’s a way to go get all of this great information. You want to help build this great information when you see the Get Involved area, you find the training team inside of that, the long address is just make.wordpress.org/training, but if that’s too much to remember, see the get involved tab. There are lots of teams and areas on ways to get involved for sure. We do like to include others in that process.

Angela:

I know you do.

Courtney:

I won’t knock on everyone’s door.

Angela:

I know you do.

Tracy:

I mean, even just thinking about as you’re talking and thinking through … The courses I’m teaching, they’re not people that are going to be web developers, but also how many of us decided that we were going to be web developers, own an agency, or be teaching technology, web development, or WordPress? Who knows what happens and what sparks during a class or just during one lesson? You’d be like, “Oh my goodness. This is amazing.” The open source, just the whole idea that it’s open source. You can get involved. You don’t have to be a “expert.” There’s somewhere that you contribute anywhere.

Tracy:

Thinking through like, “Okay, so what if someone now … I was in this marketing thing, but now I really like this thing. How do I learn more?”

Tracy:

“Hey, you can contribute to this,” and that’s going to help you not only see what’s out there for lesson-wise, and maybe even spur your own things and make your own critique, and that might just snowball into you starting your own WordPress agency. Who knows, because it’s happened many times.

Courtney:

It sure has. Absolutely, yeah. I would also say, one of the things that’s really helped me in terms of … I am teaching in a bootcamp, and I’ve had to do a lot of thought about all of the prerequisites. In the span of 10 weeks, going from no code to somebody that could apply as a junior dev somewhere, or at least a tier two support, somewhere in that ballpark, all of the skills that they need to get through if the place is listing for WordPress. That means they need to be very functional with HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript before they can build the theme, work on the plugin, inheriting all of this code for these places. They need to have at least an introductory level to all of those, and that did a big number on me.

Courtney:

Mapping that out in my brain, it looks like the background, for those that can’t see, the background of Tracy Apps’ board behind her. It is a maze. Having some of that organizational stuff done, that just says, “At this point, they need to know this amount of PHP,” great. Now I need to go also include that amount of PHP, and that tells me at which point we need to know some of these pieces. Being able to look over how somebody else has organized things has really helped me to get my mind around what I need to stack in what order, and then adapt accordingly within that, right? Because things are always going to evolve and change, and we have different learning styles and factors.

Angela:

How did you get involved with Make? I’m always curious about when people got hooked in and how.

Courtney:

Yeah, so the training team got started in 2013 at WordCamps San Fran. Courtney O’Callaghan and Tracy Levesque were the original training team reps. They are near me. I’m in the Gettysburg area. One is in D.C., and one’s in the Philly area. I went to WordCamp New York in 2014, I believe, to the Contributor Day, and I remember coming across some well known folks in the WordPress community.

Courtney:

Over at one table, I’m hearing these people talking about, “The REST API is coming.”

Courtney:

I’m like, “What’s that?”

Courtney:

Then, over here, these other people are talking about this other thing. So, there were different tables set up based around the different teams primarily, although some of them were also very project niched, like the REST API work that was still in development back then. I was torn. There was the marketing table and the training team table. I had just stepped out of the classroom at that point. I’m like, “Well, I’m a high school business education teacher that has half my MBA done. Which table should I go to?” So, I landed at the training team table, but really in all practicality, I now sort of dabble in both. Training team takes up more time, because I’m part of the organizing group for that one, but the marketing team, I collaborate with them back and forth. We have an ongoing relationship so that I can benefit by knowing what they have from the release sequence process, getting all the information, similar to what I did while I was at the event’s calendar.

Courtney:

Getting all of the inside info of, “What does this team need, and what does that team need?”, and applying it now in the context of the Make teams. I started contributing in 2014. I began, of all things, with the post format’s lesson plan. Then, I realized, “This is two lesson plans and now post-formats. Whatever,” but it was two lesson plans. I realized we have a user version and a theme dev version, and now we need to deviate what that content looks like and break that down. It is what got me learning more PHP, of all things, so there’s that weird claim to fame I suppose, but it was a good introduction to it. Then, when I had gone through three miscarriages, I needed to just step out for a while. I took a number of years off. Jumping back in at Code Differently, I’m like, “All those lesson plans, maybe not post-[inaudible 00:40:41] but, all those lesson plans I wrote I now need again, so I’m going to start showing up and helping with training team.”

Courtney:

Due to pandemic situations, some of the training team reps that have passed through are not in the training team at this time, and that’s okay. They’re certainly very appreciated and welcomed at any point through this journey. That’s kind of the beauty of the WordPress project. If you need to take a time out, and you want to rejoin later, the door is still available for you. I jump back in, got word that we were about to launch Learn, and we needed a team rep, so here I am. I have been a team rep before I took some time away, so I had some of that historical value. Frankly, nobody else was in the room at the time, so there we are. We’re off and running, and there’s a full team that is up and moving, and a lot of work is being done. I’m so excited about where Learn is going, what this could do for WordPress in general, and to see that [inaudible 00:41:40] listed it in some of the top three priorities for this year.

Tracy:

Awesome. So nice.

Amy:

That’s great.

Tracy:

Side note totally, Tracy. People always think me and Tracy are the same person, but there’s two Tracy’s that play drums that have dark, short hair, that are queer, that do WordPress.

Courtney:

Does she wear bow ties?

Tracy:

No, but she has a couple where she has a regular, straight tie. Just saying.

Angela:

But we’re not sure if they’ve ever been in the same room together.

Tracy:

We have. We have pictures.

Angela:

Are there photos? Okay. Well, we need to see these.

Tracy:

There are photos.

Angela:

I think we’ve talked about this before, and I have yet not seen the photos to prove that you are not the same person.

Tracy:

We’ve got to get her on the show, so we can see that.

Angela:

Oh. If we get her on the show, I guess that would definitely prove that you’re two different people, except you have some [inaudible 00:42:29] skill I think you could pull off.

Tracy:

Oh.

Courtney:

I think both of these ladies are [crosstalk 00:42:36].

Amy:

Thank you for listening. Interested in being on the show? Sign up on our website, womenwp.com. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and join our Facebook to have conversations with other women in WordPress.

Courtney:

I think we need an April Fools’ crossover episode coming out.

Tracy:

Oh. Oh, yes.

Angela:

Don’t give us ideas. Don’t give Tracy any ideas.

Tracy:

I know, right? Don’t give me any ideas.

Amy:

Well, it’s been great having you on the show today. Before we go, can you tell everybody where they can find you online?

Courtney:

On Twitter, I still have my maiden name, because I can’t get my married name. So, @courtneyengle, E-N-G-L-E. And on all the other social networks, if you look me up under Courtney Robertson you’ll find me.

Amy:

Awesome. Well, thanks for being here.

Courtney:

Thank you.

Tracy:

Thank you.

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