by Stephen Mayeux


It’s Not You, It’s Me: Why I’m Breaking up with Teaching English and Becoming a Full Stack Developer

Wait — this sounds like a breakup letter. Is this a breakup letter?

Yes, it is.

I’m breaking up with teaching English and jump-starting my exciting, new career as a software engineer. This breakup letter is the first of many posts about my journey to becoming a full stack JavaScript developer, and the subject of the forthcoming posts will be a record of my progress and the blunders I’ve made on this journey. You can also expect to read about what projects I’m working on and all the cool things I’m learning about.

But now it’s time for me to set the record straight and to announce to the ELT world that I’m ready to peace out. After seven years of teaching English as a Second Language, creating content for learners, and building an amazing online community of teachers/hip-hop lovers, I am finally saying goodbye to the world of ESL.

Hip-Hop as a Second Language at the University of California Davis Extension

It’s been real good, y’all. I have traveled the world and met a lot of fantastic people who I’ll never forget. But unfortunately, I have some serious student loan bills to pay, and teaching can no longer cut the mustard in that regard. For the past year, I’ve been looking for a new, higher-paying career with the following qualities:

  • intellectually stimulating tasks that solve real problems,
  • the ability to work solo and as part of a team,
  • something that doesn’t necessarily require me to return to school, and
  • a job where I can slowly make the transition over a year

I immensely enjoyed making websites and blogs for my teaching endeavors, and it didn’t take long for me to put the pieces together.

I will quit teaching forever and risk it all to make apps and websites full time!

So you and teaching are done for good now?

Well, not quite yet.

I’ll be teaching English in South Korea until September 2016. In the meantime, I’m carving out every free second that I have to study and practice JavaScript. I’m fortunate to have a not-so-demanding teaching position at the moment, and I’ve been averaging about 20–30 hours of studying time every week.

It feels so good to be a student again!

For the last four months, I have been voraciously teaching myself HTML, CSS, and JavaScript through websites such as Free Code Camp, Code Academy, and Code School. I’ve hit the ground running, and it’s been a nonstop sprint ever since.

My favorite of these sites is Free Code Camp, and I just earned a certification in their Front End Development Program. There are some major challenges ahead that I’ll need to tackle in order to complete Free Code Camp’s Full Stack Development Certification, but by the time I’ve completed all of them, I will have acquired enough skills to be considered for job interviews.

Free Code Camp Busan

The #LearnToCode movement has already put me in touch with some amazing people. Most of them are regulars at a web development meetup that I organize in Busan, and it’s here where the rubber meets the road. Free Code Camp encourages pair programming, a practice where two people of approximately the same ability solve algorithm problems and write projects together.

I’ve come to understand the fundamentals of JavaScript on my own, but when I’m working with another person and have to explain things, then the real “magic” and “aha!” moments happen.

So maybe I’m not quite done with teaching after all.


So what’s next?

Some things from my old life as an ESL teacher will stay the same and not fade away. For instance, ESL Hip Hop will always be online so that teachers can bring a new edge to their classrooms. I may not have the time to contribute new lessons like I used to, but there are 100+ posts and videos all ready for teachers and students.

Although my online teaching business was short-lived, I will continue to keep that site alive as well, but mainly to showcase it on my web development portfolio. In the tech industry, most employers care about what you can do instead of where you have gone to school. If you’re also making the switch to a career in coding like I am, then start building a portfolio page today and don’t forget to git commit and git push!

And I’m not getting rid of my Twitter account. I’m still @ESLhiphop.