The spring quarter is ending on an unhappy note for those of us in the School of Computing. A long-time colleague of ours died suddenly last week. While he had been sick for a while, he was very private about his health so it came as a shock to almost all of us. Unfortunately there’s another week left in the quarter, so three of us had to step up and agree to take over his classes. I was one of the volunteers.
This isn’t the first time I’ve had to take over a class for a colleague in the middle of the quarter. During fall 2013 a colleague had a medical crisis, and I had to take over his class around midterms. One of the first things I did with that class was determine what they’d learned and write an exam on it, which I didn’t expect would bode well for our relationship. Surprisingly they reacted well, and that class turned out to be one of my best. They never quite caught up to the other section, but I think I got them through the required material in a reasonable way. And I bonded with them more than I expected, perhaps because things had been rocky even before I picked up the class and I was able to make the rest of the quarter very stable for them.
Sadly, I’m learning this time that ten days just isn’t enough time to bond with students. The situation is a bit different since their instructor left under sad circumstances and time is very short, but I had hoped that like the previous class we would come to understand each other. I’m not getting the feeling that’s going to happen. I’m very different from the previous instructor and we don’t have much time to get to know each other. While I don’t think they dislike me, they’re not particularly warming up to me either.
My sweetie jokingly compared the situation to a one-night stand, and while I see the point he’s trying to make I think it differs in one significant way. People participating in a one-night stand are making a choice to be there. And while I chose to take on this class, my new students didn’t choose to have me as their instructor. That makes it all the more understandable that they’re not connecting with me. Above all else, this situation is making me realize how much I prize my connection with my students and how much I miss that connection when it’s not there.