For many years I’ve taught introductory programming, very often the first quarter that DePaul students have. The classes haven’t always been for freshman since many of our Masters students are switching areas in graduate school and need to learn the basics. But I am typically the first person who has ever taught them to program. I don’t always get along with all my students, and I have a few nasty comments from my course evaluations to prove it, but I do tend to bond with them. I come to think of them as “my” students and am quite pleased when I get to teach them in another class or see them around campus.
So I am mystified when my students, particularly the ones who did very well and were quite interactive, have problems with subsequent instructors. Personality issues can sometimes be to blame, but that doesn’t explain everything. For example, one of my most personable, intelligent, and outgoing Python students from last year contacted me recently. He is struggling in a subsequent programming class and was hoping that I could help. I warned him that I was rusty in the language of the course (kept vague on purpose), but said I would be happy to try. Today we talked for about 90 minutes, during which time I was able to answer his questions. He’s good, and his code wasn’t horrible. He just needed clarification on a few topics, which he would have gotten more quickly from the instructor. And he did try. He met with the instructor to ask for help, but the student said that his inability to use the debugger so upset the instructor that the instructor refused to help him. Hence his visit to me during my office hours.
I’m sure I must be missing part of the story, and I don’t know the other instructor well enough to ask for a clarification. But it leaves me feeling a bit like a protective mother. How dare this other instructor not treat my kids the way they should be treated! That reaction makes me laugh a bit, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.