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Feeling fortunate

I just returned from the 2018 SIGCSE Technical Symposium on Computer Science education. Attending SIGCSE reminds me of how fortunate I am.

I am fortunate to be part of a professional community of really wonderful and thoughtful people, people who share my values of providing students with a well-designed and creative education in an interesting discipline [1] and of ensuring that we expand the group of people who study that discipline. I don’t always agree with the approaches or perspectives of everyone [2], but I can be confident that members of my professional community approaches to CS education are grounded in care for the discipline and care for their students.

I am fortunate to be treated as a valued member of that community. People know who I am, take my opinions seriously, and share their own ideas with me.

I see those two sets of issues reflected in many ways. But they were reflected quite clearly in two separate but closely related incidents. I’ve been a bit of a PITA [3] to some people in the months leading up to the conference. I apologized to two of them. Both said essentially the same thing: Sam, you are definitely a PITA. But you’re a PITA for good reasons. Thanks for caring.

I am fortunate to have excellent students. My students may not know this, but I regularly got comments throughout the conference on the wonderful interactions people had with them. And they are excellent in many ways. They are not afraid to engage in difficult concepts. They speak well about their work [4]. They are helpful and friendly. And, when they are asked to do work, they work hard and well.

I am fortunate to teach at an institution that has the resources to ensure that students who have research to present are able to attend a conference to present that research. In general, our students who have papers or posters accepted do not need to worry about the costs associated with attending SIGCSE [5,6].

On the other hand, I am also unfortunate in that many people know that I work hard and that I’m not very good at saying no [7,8]. So I sometimes end up with more work in that community than is necessarily good for me.

In balance, it’s worth it.

Postscript: As I’ve noted in the past, my primary good fortune has to do with my family. I am very proud of my three sons. I am married to a wonderful women. And my parents were thoughtful, inspirational people who I strive to emulate. But my experience at SIGCSE (other than missing my family) makes me focus on my professional life, rather than my personal life.

Postscript: I am fortunate in many other aspects of my professional life. These are just the ones that immediately came to mind at SIGCSE.

[1] That discipline is computer science.

[2] And I know that they don’t always agree with me.

[3] We’ve done this acronym before, right? PITA is Pain in the Neck.

[4] They did well enough that they were one of three groups of students to win an award for excellent student poster in the primary poster group (as opposed to the student research competition, which they neglected to apply for).

[5] Or any other conference.

[6] The College pays for students’ travel, hotel, registration, and meal costs. Meals are currently cappted at $25/day. I’m trying to convince the College to make the per-diem for meals more sensible.

[7] It may be worse than that. I seem to be good at saying I can do that.

[8] Some people know that I struggle with procrastination [9] and have learned not to ask me to take particularly time-sensitive roles.

[9] Or perhaps just overcommitment.

Version 1.0 released 2018-02-25.

Version 1.0.1 of 2018-02-25.