Thursday, September 04, 2014

Thoughts On The Start of School

Today is the eight day of classes for me. By and large the school year is off to a good start. The students are great. I told my students this morning that I was happy because I was spending the day with them. I don’t think they believed me. One of them said “teachers always say that but then we give them a reason to hate us.” Now that is a mixed story.

I think that most teachers really do enjoy spending time with their students. On the other hand students can be very frustrating at times. Discipline can suck the joy out of a classroom for both students and teachers. And yet I think things would be horribly boring if students sat in class like little robots just listening and regurgitating facts and information. Somewhere between that and kids wildly doing what every they want is the sweet spot. Some good questions. Even some off the wall questions that spark good discussions. And yes maybe even a little goofing around – in moderation – can be a good thing.

So far though my students haven’t given me a reason to hate any of them and in fact most of them fascinate me.  I found out today that one girl used to drive race cars in races. We had a fun conversation about that before class today.

As for the actual teaching that is going pretty well. Our Explorations in Computer Science course (2 teachers/5 sections) seems right on schedule. Well on adjusted schedule. Things always seem to pop up that require moving one thing up and another later but a good plan allows for that.

I’m still working on the timing for my honors programming course. Last year was the first year for it and we had a mix of prior experience that included some with no prior experience in programming. My schedule this year was based in part on how long things took last year. This year all of my students have had some prior programming even if only a partial semester of Visual Basic. More sticks with some than others and for some the switch to C# is easier or harder than for others. The result is some things are moving much faster than planned and some a little slower. Can one ever get it all right? Probably not – each class has a pace and a personality of its own.

One change this year is starting off with the students doing more coding between topics. I have found that not doing that means students forget simple basics later on which can get in the way or using new concepts.

The biggest change for me is the most detailed plan for the semester I have ever had at the start of the semester. (I’ve seen a lot more detailed plans by others but at least I’m moving in the right direction.)  Only time will tell how it has to be adjusted as we go along. In the long run I think I and the students will benefit from the summer planning.

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