Do Your Students Still Surprise You?

As my year concluded I was reflecting on the students, my courses, and the changes I need to make for next year. I was thinking about what students surprised me and which I thought could have done more. That led to me thinking about why some students surprise me. What was it that gave me the impression that they may not do well or like computer science? Mostly the answer was lack of response on the students part or their demeanor in the classroom; however, as the class went on their spirit and their faces lifted. That proverbial “light bulb” turning on is what surprised me in some.

So why would these students surprise me? I was making an assumption that when they walked in my room the attitude or lack there of that they gave me was accurate. I took their first reaction as an true representation and it was a bias of a different sort on my part. It was not a gender, ethnic, privileged, etc bias it was simply a bias based on what they gave me the first few days of class.

While I am excited and completely tuned into computer science I forgot that my students are not initially that way. I forgot that they are used to typical classes and have a preconceived notion what will occur in a classroom when they walk in. I live in my own little world of CS bliss and forgot that not everyone else does ( What? Not everyone else does? Crazy, I know!).

The good thing is that I proceed full steam ahead in my bliss and most if not all students jump on board somewhere along the way. My class plays with toys, makes things, tries new things, eats worms (gummy ones that is, for a project), and many other non-typical classroom activities. This is when the light bulb comes on for some and the students “surprise me”.

So this fall I vow to not believe the opinions and attitudes of the students. I vow to believe that all students love CS and it just has not manifested itself on their faces yet. I vow to excite and challenge them all and expect great things out of them. While this may sound a little fairy-tale-ish, I don’t want to judge any student as I fear it may subconsciously affect how I deal with them. In my reflecting I do not feel there was anything really different in my teaching but I want to look at my students differently and I want to look at them in such as way that they do not surprise me if they do well or really get into what we are doing.

So I challenge you to think about how you look at your students when they come in to your room this fall. What do you believe of them, what do you want from them, and will you make them play, stretch their minds, and just expect that the light bulb comes on?

Stephanie Hoeppner
9-12 Rep