In the past several years I’ve taught the introductory Python classes a lot, and in particular, the second-quarter class for novices has been my most frequent assignment. A big reason for that has been that it’s tougher to get instructors who want to teach it. The topics in CSC 242 are harder than the first class (objects, event-driven programming, recursion), and students who have been successful in the first class often hit the wall. I’m also the only instructor for the accelerated Python class for experienced programmers. The combination has meant that I almost never teach the first-quarter class for novices, which results in me being the new instructor who beats up successful CSC 241 students in CSC 242. As you can imagine, that makes for lots of challenging moments in the classroom.
This year because of a research project I ended up being assigned a section of CSC 241 in the fall and a section of CSC 242 at the same time in the winter. Some of my students followed me from one class to the other, which tends to improve the mood in CSC 242. When they know me they’re more likely to tolerate the toughness of the material with good humor. But what surprised me this quarter was how much the students who hadn’t taken my CSC 241 section responded to me. Some of the students who most frequently answered questions in class were the ones who were new to me, and they all displayed humor and tolerance to the material and to me. Normally my accelerated class is my favorite, but this quarter both classes have been so great I haven’t managed to develop a favorite.
But I don’t think I realized how extraordinary the students in my CSC 242 class are until course evaluations started. Despite spamming from the DePaul administration, getting students to complete evaluations is an uphill battle. I’ve never had more than a 75% response rate in any of my classes. So I was stunned to discover that my response rate in CSC 242 this year is 100%. Yes, you read that correctly: every single student in my CSC 242 class completed an evaluation. I won’t be able to see what they said until the grading period is over, as it should be, but I’m already pleased that every one of them took the time to let me know what they think. Good or bad I want to hear from them, and I’m stunned that every single one of them listened to my pleas. They are an amazing bunch.