At 42 Berlin, we use a peer-learning methodology. As outlined in previous articles, this gives students full autonomy and ownership over their learning journey. There are no teachers to instil fear into students or force them to show up to a Monday morning lecture. Instead, we give students the freedom to work at the pace they want, with the only time constraint set by the blackhole, which gives students a total of 2 years to complete the core curriculum.
With this, comes the ability to freeze one’s studies. Students can freeze their studies for a certain amount of time if life throws them an unexpected curveball. Although students might be disappointed if they are forced to freeze, we are here today to share some unlikely learnings from a student’s own experience of having to press ‘freeze’.
**Disclaimer: The 42 rules around Blackhole & Freeze will be undergoing adjustment by the end of 2023. Future students are to always check updated protocols.**
This is my experience with the freeze…
Some could say that I committed two sins. The first? I had to freeze my studies because I felt that I was too close to the blackhole (the core curriculum’s time limit that haunts each 42 student). And the second: I did the unthinkable! I used my freeze to work on code rather than have a break.
So, how did I even get myself into this messy situation? It was a combination of 3 factors: underestimation, lack of consistency and learning how to learn.
I underestimated the curriculum and the number of days I would get for each project. The days you get decrease as the project difficulty increases, culminating into the perfect hotpot of stress. I nearly always miscalculated the time I needed for a project by a magnitude of 4-5x times the initial estimation.
2. Lack of consistency
I would work on code some days and on other days I wouldn’t. There was no one watching me and no assessments breaking the project into smaller chunks to keep you ontrack. It was just one massive project to submit at the end. Sometimes, I felt too overwhelmed to even start.
Once I realised my blindspots and was forced to hit the pause button, I reflected on my study habits and I implemented two specific focus points to help me out:
a) I retrained my brain to focus on the process rather than the result. Hence, I placed utmost importance on consistent everyday coding as opposed to obsessing over the end project.
b) At the end of each day, I reflected on the small new concepts I learned rather than feeling disheartened by how far I still needed to go to finish the project.
3. Learning how to learn
I had to learn how to learn and I am still learning. One aspect of this is the interplay of mind, body and soul. Nothing happens in a vacuum. We are always subjected to a myriad of factors. Thus, learning involves taking care of all three aspects equally.
Body: To learn, one must understand and listen to the body. I noted down when during the day I was more focused and when I was sleepy or distracted.
Mind: My goal everyday was to carve out 3 solid focus hours. I obsessed over the quality of my hours. I let go of the belief that I should sit at the computer from morning to night. During my focus hours, I removed all distractions.
Soul: Rest is important for the soul. It is easy to fall into the habit of expecting yourself to code on the weekends too and feeling bad if you don’t. Many times I could see the problem of my code clearly after a day or two of rest. It is a much more efficient way of learning.
The other factors that contribute to a healthy mind, body and soul are nutrition, exercise and social interactions. These are as important ingredients to coding as coding itself. We cannot isolate one aspect but need to look at ourselves holistically.
Freezing because of my fear of the blackhole was the thing I had been dreading the most. However, in retrospect, it turned out to be the best thing that could have happened in my learning journey. It taught me to reflect and find my bearings again.
I also learned to code on my personal laptop, which is a mac and not linux like those we use in school. This additional hurdle made me more confident as a programmer to be able to adapt to different programming environments as well physical environments.
To summarize, we all have faulty judgments hence we need to have certain measures in place to minimize them as much as possible. For me it was the importance of daily consistent progress without obsessing over the end. It was also to listen to my body in order to get the best out of myself in the easiest of ways. I hope these insights help you too!