I’ve been teaching programming for a very long time (since 1993 to be precise), and in that time I’ve developed a mental picture of myself as a teacher. One of the important pieces of that perception is that I’m encouraging and supportive. And while I think those are two good qualities to have, I think that some, myself included, can come to imagine that means I’m too easy on students. I once even had a colleague, in a meeting no less, suggest that I’m not sufficiently rigorous with my students. (And, yes, I let him have it. He deserved it for jumping to conclusions based on a single student).

Today I got an email from a student that helps me to feel that while I do a lot to support students, I also do a lot to challenge them:

Professor, thanks for the opportunity to take your class. It was an intense learning experience, and I appreciate it.

There is no world in which I can interpret “intense learning experience” to mean that I’m not pushing them in my class. It’s a tricky balance to both encourage and challenge them, but I think I may be managing it.