I like a fairly informal atmosphere in my classes. Students have to know that there’s a line between teacher and student but I also want them to feel like we’re all part of the Stuy CS family.
Whenever we start a new term, it takes a while to break down the walls. The students don’t know what to expect of me, can they trust me? Am I a bozo? Who knows.
It helps when some of the class had me as a teacher before, but it still takes time.
I’m glad that this term, things are coming along nicely.
Let me share what happened in class today.
I was introducing merge sort - their first nlgn sorting algorithm. Before class, one of the students slipped off his seat and landed on the floor with a thud. He was fine although the brief butt, if you would, of jokes.
I relayed a story - many years ago, Ilya, one of the gang, was accused of being a dumbass. He responded “hey, it’s never missed the seat.” The class had a good laugh over it.
Fast forward a bit.
I had a deck of cards I wanted sorted. As a Stuy grad, I’m as lazy as the next guy so I didn’t want to sort them, but I also didn’t want to violate one of our two class tenets “Don’t be a jerk” so rather than giving the cards to a student to sort, I split the deck in half and gave each half to a student.
They quickly caught on and subdivided the deck and gave away their halves. We did this until all the students had, at some point had one or more cards.
Then we got to the merge part. Each student sorted his or her pile and passed it back to the student who they got the cards from. This student then merged the two piles and passed the cards back.
As the cards made their way back to me a student noted “hey, one of my piles isn’t in order.” I commented that “the algorithm might fail if at some points you give your cards to a dumbass.” This got a good laugh.
Finally, two pile of cards made their way to me and I started to merge then. At which point, I promptly dropped the cards all over the floor.
One of my students exclaimed: “That’s what happens when you give you cards to a dumbass!!!!!”
It was awesome. We all cracked up.
I don’t think I’ve been “insulted” quite so perfectly since my daughter called me an idiot in class last year (I fed her the straight line and she didn’t disappoint).
I love it that my kids feel comfortable enough to joke but also know where the line is.