The start of the spring semester is looming all too close (about 60 hours left to go), and the pressure is exacerbated by having spent the past two weeks in intensive committee service (it is, apparently, possible for five people to sit in the same room for six hours multiple days in a row and churn out productive work, but it is exhausting and your evenings are not productive) and having a new course launching this spring. I’m trying desperately to get my ducks in a row (note to self: perhaps duck sorting would be a good programming exercise…) but also to take the time to step back and keep in mind what my high level goals are for the term. Because once classes start, it’s going to be all trees all the time (though not literally, data structures isn’t until next semester).
So, high level goals….
- For my programming course, I’m adjusting how I provide feedback on their code, to focus more on providing the type of feedback that helps them find and diagnose their issues rather than pointing out problems in specific lines of code. So, do more suggesting a test case they need to look at again or pointing out a portion of the specification they need to re-read and see how they aren’t lining up with it. There will be times when I know I’ll still point out an issue on a specific line, but I want to press myself harder to do that only when it’s the best way to provide the feedback in question. I feel like my mix of the two types of comments has strayed too far towards the specific line-by-line feedback and I am going to work on doing that less.
- For my artificial intelligence course, my goal is to keep careful notes on what works and what needs to be revised the next time around. I know that my first stab at AI for both majors and non-majors with no pre-requisites (no programming or math assumed) is going to have some rough patches. I already plan to go in being honest about this with the students and giving them space to let me know where we need to adjust as we go along. But I’m also going to be diligent of keeping track of the ups and downs. I’ve never been good at this type of note-keeping about my courses, instead telling myself I’ll remember for the next time. I intend to keep better track for this course.
Finally, I always start each semester reminding myself to be present for my students. I can’t let research or committees or other parts of my work follow me into the classroom. The tires that need to be replaced or the roofer that has to be called will still be there in an hour. If they’re working in groups on something, I will do anything except check email while waiting to start walking around and talking to them.