One of the biggest learning experiences for me has been being a parent. My daughter has given me a new perspective on just about everything, but one of the most interesting ways that she’s changed my life is by giving me a clear view of my own perfectionism. She agonizes when she fails at something, so much so that my highly communicative girl sometimes simply refuses to discuss her failures. As a result I’ve become very good at giving her advice on how to deal with setbacks. She then repeats these words of wisdom back to me when she sees me fretting over something I’ve done. One of our favorites is that things that look like setbacks at first often turn out to have very positive consequences in the end.
It’s this piece of advice that I find myself contemplating when I look back on 2011. There were so many things that happened that seemed awful at the time: plagiarism, bitter disagreements with colleagues, excessive amounts of work, the realization that I needed to resign as director of iTec, and numerous personal setbacks. But as I consider where I am now, I’m in a better position in so many ways because of these things. I’ve grown closer to the colleagues who were there for me during the difficult events. I’ve refocused on the projects that give me the most joy. And I’m happier as a result of both. I think that I’ll look back on 2011 as the year that set me free from things I didn’t even know were weighing me down.
On the last day of 2011 I’m also in the process of preparing my materials for the second quarter of Python, the class which introduces object-oriented programming for the first time. If my experience with teaching the Java classes is any indication, this will be a tough class for my students filled with plenty of setbacks. I only hope that I’ll be able to convey the advice about unanticipated positive consequences to them as effectively as I seem to have shared it with my daughter.