My quarter has taken several interesting turns since I unexpectedly took over a class this quarter for a seriously ill colleague.  To begin with I’ve learned a lot including, but not limited to, the following pearls of wisdom:

  1. Teaching three 90-minutes classes back-to-back is completely exhausting and hard on my voice.
  2. It’s tough to bond with students when you give them a midterm the second time you see them.
  3. Consistently showing up does help the bonding process for students who have had a lot of classes cancelled.
  4. Students really (really, really) love donuts, especially when they don’t expect them.  And, yes, donuts help with bonding too.

The extra class and associated work, exhaustion, and stress has also seemed to accentuate the daily highs and lows.  Today I got one of each, and interestingly the two were related to the same issue: students listening to you.

My first class has gotten to the application of recursion to searching, which is one of the toughest parts of the quarter conceptually.  As a result, their current assignment is tricky.  I warned them about this, encouraging them to start early.  Amazingly, a good portion of them listened to me.  I’ve already had more questions on the assignment posted on Monday than I usually do by the end of the weekend.  This has made me so very happy.

On the other hand, in the same class and the one that follows it, attendance is just dismal.  Some students have clearly checked out and aren’t even working on the in-class activities I incorporate into each session.  These are the same students who struggle on the assignments.  I sometimes want to point out that paying more attention would help them in their efforts on assignments, but I suspect that would just make them stop showing up altogether which wouldn’t help.  So I try to let them find their own way, and focus instead on interacting as dynamically as I can with the ones who are paying attention.  I do know that you can’t make them learn but instead have to focus on creating the opportunities to enable learning.