As tired as I am, the start of the fall quarter has felt more discouraging than usual. Normally the energy I feel from being back tends to dissipate any unhappiness from watching students struggle with programming, but this quarter it’s gotten to me much more. It’s been painful to watch my some of my students drop the course as they decide that it’s not right for them. And to be fair, a lot of them are doing really well. But when I’m tired, I’m more negative and less able to see the bright side of things.

So the timing of two comments from former students couldn’t be better. Yesterday I had an advising meeting with a former student. When he was a first-year student there were many fewer sections of the Python courses since computer science majors were the only ones taking them and the CS enrollments were smaller then. As a result, I taught nearly all of the people majoring in CS for their first two programming classes. We talked about what he needs to do to graduate, and near the end of the meeting he told me that he and his classmates often say to each other that they wished I was there to teach them whatever it is that they’re learning. It was such a sweet thing to say and so spontaneously shared that it made me very happy.

Then today I got an email from a student who took the accelerated Python course with me last year. He wrote:

I just had to say: thanks again for being a great professor. The skills I learned in your class have stuck with me, and are really helping me in CSC 300. In particular, every time I start to solve a problem, I always think about the special cases first — it really helps!

That he took the time to contact me and specifically mentioned my technique for tackling recursion is so great.

I don’t know whether they realize it, but these two have given me the energy to get through another week. That’s so valuable to me right now.