I have an interesting mix of students this quarter. The students in my two Python classes are very different, with one group seeming to be much more mature than the other. And the Java class, like all brand-new classes, is an adjustment for both me and my students. The diversity of students and topics has me reflecting on my relationship with the students, hence this post.

Two years ago I realized that the increasing age gap between me and my students had led me to become somewhat of a mother figure to them. As I noted, that shift had some positives associated with it. But I think I’ve now discovered that being a mother figure has its downsides too. When I became a mother, I found myself giving students advice more often. I tried to remind them about stumbling blocks, give them hints about tackling the language and assignments, and overall serve as their guide. While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying to do that, I have finally realized that handing out advice while also being a mother figure can be a bad thing. Even my own attentive pre-teen daughter tends to tune me out when she hears something that could be interpreted as a nag, and my students don’t care for me the way she does.

This quarter in particular my students are doing a terrible job of listening to me. In previous quarters that would have inspired me to remind them more about things, but I’ve decided that fewer reminders and suggestions may in fact be a better approach. Yes, if they ask about how they can do things differently, I will certainly jump in and give suggestions. But I think there may be more benefits to being the kind of mother figure who sets boundaries and then simply expects them to be maintained without any sort of commentary. Because I’m not their mother, and even if I were, they probably wouldn’t listen. Stepping back from that role a bit will give me more patience, and that will likely benefit my students more than any nags I could provide.