I have previously written about the fact that every quarter I end up having a favorite class. I should probably know better than to say never or always at this point in my life, but I said it and now I get to retract it. This quarter I love both my classes equally, although I don’t love them in the same ways. My accelerated Python class, which is usually my favorite, is a dynamic, curious, and engaging bunch. It’s easy to enjoy them, even if there are a significant group of students who never come to class suggesting that it’s really a subgroup of the class I love. But my second-quarter regular Python class, which is typically a tough group to bond with, have also captured my heart. They listen to me much better than a typical CSC 242 class, and in an astonishing turn 75% of them have perfect attendance so far. They also seem to care about my opinion, and that’s always an endearing quality.
So I’m doing something I’ve not done so far in any quarter. I’ve bought them a second round of donuts.
We know how much students love donuts, so I’ll be able to let them know how I feel without embarrassing them.
I have a long history of buying edible treats for my classes. I started by bringing my students chocolate or cookies when they took exams as a way of trying to take their mind off the stress. I eventually discovered that their appetites are better when they’re not having an exam, and I starting bringing things at other times during the quarter. And I’ve tried just about every treat imaginable including chocolate, cookies, brownies, donuts, and donut holes. My very unscientific study has shown that donuts are by far the most popular treat. Students love donuts with a passion, and I finally have evidence I can post here too. Below is a meme that one of my students spontaneously made for me in response to the donuts I brought today.
I rest my case.
I have fabulous news for anyone who has had to endure one of my rants about MOOCs: it looks like I get to stop ranting now. A new article about MOOCs appeared in an ACM news feed, and the title alone makes me happy: “The Hype is Dead, but MOOCs Are Marching On.” In it, the Coursera co-founder gives a remarkably grounded description of what they’d like to do and the progress that they’re making. My favorite quote is:
If you think about the “Gartner Hype Cycle,” I think we’re emerging from the “trough of disillusionment.” The previous hype was completely unmerited because it was based on the presumption that MOOCs were going to put universities out of business […]
Now I think I’ll start wishing for some articles discussing the fact that online education predates MOOCs (by decades!). It’s fun to be a dreamer.
We’re in the middle of the second week of the winter quarter, and I’ve had a great start. I have two wonderful groups of students, so much so that I’m not even sure I have a favorite this quarter. They’re dynamic and engaged, and I look forward to going to class every day. And in a great surprise, I have a record number of female students. In the accelerated Python class I have 9 women out of 29 students. I don’t think I’ve ever had a class that was that close to an even gender balance.
In the bigger picture we’re having record enrollments in the majors that feed the introductory sequence and the computer science core classes in general. We had a huge increase in computer science and gaming majors last year, and they’re saying that we’ll see another big increase this year. Unfortunately, at the same time we’ve also had a large number of computer science faculty retire. Because of budget issues, it’s not clear that we will be hiring anyone to teach computer science core classes either this year or next, and as a result, we can’t cover the number of sections we need for all the new majors.
Several colleagues of mine just suggested that we consider capping the computer science and gaming majors as a way to get a handle on the situation. While I understand that the suggestion is logical and reasonable, it has me beyond frustrated. I teach at an enrollment-driven institution that focuses on teaching. History suggests that limiting enrollments in computer science has the largest impact on underrepresented minorities, including women. And yet here we are, about to turn away enrollments because we can’t find faculty to teach students. I know there are no good choices. But this is an extraordinarily bad one.
The start of 2015 is around the corner, which means it’s time for New Year’s resolutions. For the most part I avoid making them in my personal life, other than the perennial “I will read at least one book a month for fun” resolution which I typically am able to keep. My work life is a different story though. Last year I vowed to keep my expectations for the December break realistic, which I managed to do this year. But overall I was terrible at keeping work under control in 2014, resulting in pretty severe burnout. I would like this year to be different.
So I give you my three work resolutions for 2015:
- I will keep at least one day every other weekend free of work. Yes, I realize this is likely to be the hardest to keep, especially in the hell months of March and October, but I think that also makes it all the more worthy of being a resolution. It would be great to make it both days and every week, but I’m also realistic. I spend a good deal of time during the week being a mom, so some work on the weekends is likely going to be needed. I just don’t want to go months and months without a break from work.
- I will find the joy in everything I do or I will do my best to get rid of that task. Again, this needs some disclaimers. First, I doubt I’ll find the joy in grading, but I can’t get rid of it. And I hate meetings, but those aren’t likely to disappear. But in general I want to find the positive in the work obligations I have or I want to seriously consider if they can go.
- I will keep myself open to finding a new research collaborator. This one is slightly at odds with the first one, since I have plenty of research to keep me occupied. But I think it’s worth making since new collaborators and projects keep me energized, which supports the second one. I haven’t found a new collaborator since 2013, and I think the time is right to consider finding another one. Of course like all relationships, you can’t just wish for it to happen and have it suddenly appear. It’s a matter of timing and luck, and it may not be a part of my 2015. But I want to keep my mind open to it.
I’ll be sure to report back during 2015 to see how well I’m able to stick to these resolutions. I think my life will be better if I can.