I’m sitting in the room where the second-quarter Python students are taking their final exam. I hate these two hours of the quarter the most since, as someone I admire once said, watching students take exams is like watching grass grow but being nervous for the grass. Before I turned them loose on the exam I asked if they had questions. One of the students, at least partially seriously, asked if I had tips on how to get over the depression of not having this class. I told him I didn’t have any suggestions since I was grappling with the problem myself. And I meant it possibly more than he did.
I first got to know most of these students in the Spring 2012 quarter. In some ways they were my most challenging group of first-quarter Python students, something I wrote about at the time, but as I got to know them better this quarter I grew very attached to them. Yesterday I was thinking about why, and I decided that it was because so many of them had strong personalities. One of the students who was at times disruptive in the Spring quarter became the one I could count on most to listen. Sometimes I felt like I was teaching the class to him alone since he was so consistently attentive. One student was very talkative and asked such good questions that he sometimes single-handedly improved the quality of the class sessions for everyone. It was great fun to have a student whose mental state was always so completely clear. A pair of students never failed to ask me questions about the homework, and watching as their questions became more and more sophisticated and showed a stronger understanding of programming was a joy to me. My only disappointment with them is that they’re not both going to major in computer science. One student was spotty about doing his homework but certainly not for a lack of passion about the material. He consistently asked great questions and recently showed me a program he developed on his own for a personal application. I wished I could have improved his homework score for the effort. Even the students who sat in the back and didn’t engage as much in the classroom interactions were nevertheless there every single class period. Their consistent attendance told me that they were getting something from the class.
So when the last of them has left the room today I will be very sad. The characters make you work harder sometimes, but they’re also the ones that leave you with more after they’re gone.