With SIGITE/RIIT 2015 looming imminently it’s been a tough start to the fall quarter. I don’t recall a time that I’ve been so stressed in the first week of classes. But two things happened yesterday that can’t wait until things calm down for me to write about them.

First, I had an advising appointment with one of the students from my spring quarter programming classes. He was an excellent student in the class, and as stressed as I was it was good to see him again. We reviewed what classes he has left until he’s done, and at some point he made a remark that suggested he thought computer science might not be a perfect fit for him. I was stunned and told him that I absolutely felt that he belonged in computer science. We discussed it further, narrowing in the fact that solutions to problem take a while for him to develop. I told him I thought that made him a better computer scientist since the first solution isn’t always the best one, and that having the ability to see and weigh multiple options was important. He said he was relieved to hear me say that I thought computer science was a good fit for him and seemed more cheerful when he left.

Then I came home and chatted with my daughter. She has a new science teacher this year, and she’s been concerned about the teacher and the class. She’s been anxious and stressed, so much so that we decided to meet with the teacher during the open house in two weeks. Suddenly yesterday everything was different. My daughter was going on about how confident and happy she was in science, which caused me to ask what had happened to change things. And she told me that her teacher had praised her once in class and then called her by a sweet nickname as she was leaving the class later. The teacher had also commented that mistakes are ok since the teacher makes them all the time. Reflecting on it my daughter said she now believed that the teacher liked her and that she wasn’t worried about the class anymore. The difference in my daughter’s attitude and anxiety level was like night and day, and all because of two or three simple comments her teacher made.

Putting these things together this morning I realized that the switch to a maternal role has made it easier for me to praise my students. And having my daughter around, who lights up when I praise her, has gotten me more in the habit of sharing positive comments with people. I suspect all of it combined helps lower anxiety levels in my students, which makes me happier too.

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