The majority of classes I teach are introductory programming, and a typical student in my class has no experience programming.  I spend a lot of time teaching my students not only the syntax of whatever language we’re using and the problem-solving skills they’ll need as they move on to other computer-science courses but also good programming habits.  Encouraging descriptive variable naming, easy-to-understand code, comments, and doc strings feels a lot like the kind of things I used to teach my daughter about manners when she was a toddler and young child.

Now that my daughter has reached the tween years I am occasionally an embarrassment to her, and we spend about the same amount of time correcting each other on our behavior.  In a funny parallel, now that I teach the second-quarter Python class regularly, I’m seeing the programming students reach a similar phase in that course.  Recently I was discussing a program in which a variable next was used.  As far as I can tell next isn’t one of the stated reserved words, but it is recognized by Python since it’s used in iterators.  The students were driven to distraction by the fact that the editor was making it a different color and insisted that I change the name of the variable.  It’s good to be able to make my no-longer-novice programmers crazy in much the same way I embarrass my daughter.

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