I found this image on Facebook last week and it really rang true for me.
I experienced both sides of this recently. On one hand I wrote a program on the spur of the moment and pushed it out in 20 minutes with no struggle at all. On the other I started a program I thought should have been just as easy and spend a couple of frustrating hours as nothing I did seemed to work. I put part of it aside to come back later when I was calm again. Why does this happen?
The same is true with teaching as one of my friends on Facebook pointed out. One day you thrill to the sight of students “getting it’ and executing projects smoothly and with great pleasure. The next day you hear a lot of “I don’t know where to begin” and “I’m confused.” And you ask yourself, if I explained things so well one day why was my talk a complete failure the next?
Well I expect that some teachers will blame the student for not paying attention or not having what it takes. And of course there are students who don’t pay attention or who are lazy. But I feel some responsibility to be interesting enough for them to want to pay attention as well. Probably we, students and teachers, share some of the responsibility in most cases.
In the case of my frustrating program what I realized is that I was rushing things. I was not thinking things out enough before writing code. This is something I warn students about all the time. I need to sit down and work out the algorithm on paper before I revisit the code. Likewise with my teaching I need to sit back and honestly evaluate how I taught a lesson (or three).
Did I try to cover too much too quickly? Were my examples not as helpful as I’d like? Did I really plan the lesson well or did I rush it out assuming it would be easy or just the same as some other topic that went well? Was I insensitive to the state of the students? Were they paying attention or did I push them to where their eyes glazed over and they stopped listening? Most of all, how can I help them learn what I am trying to teach? I’m never going to become the teacher I want to be if I assume that a failure to learn is all on the students shoulders.
You know, teaching coding makes actually writing code seem REALLY easy some days.