That Gleam of Understanding

I'm teaching Programming 1 this semester, which is always a hard job. Those who have done "programming" in school parrot their teacher's misunderstandings of the mechanics; those who taught themselves made up mostly wrong explanations for things; those who never programmed before think I am speaking Martian.

We slog through exercise after exercise, with a lot of people just repeating cool stuff they found on the Internet with more or less success. But the current exercise (actually only about 5 lines of code, but trick is knowing which 5 lines of code) is such a great one. They have to stick 4 classes together to make a system.

One woman yesterday who had had some prior programming experience began asking questions in the lab that showed me that she was on the right track. And suddenly there is the bright gleam on her face, followed by a wrinkled brow - do you mean that I just have to do X? Yes. (smack to the forehead) "Here I've spent hours trying to understand this, and it is that easy?" Yes.

She can't follow the lecture (we are in the lab for lectures too on account of there being an air conditioner there and the lab is free, they would rather sit on the floor than sweat) - I see her madly typing. And then a wide smile of satisfaction - it works! She proudly shows me her work during the break.

These are the moments we live for as teachers. No evaluation form can capture this moment. I have created an environment that helped this woman finally understand the basics. It will still be a lot of work, but she took a giant step today, hooray!

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