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I am fortunate to have worked with my summer research team because …

I have a linked pair of traditions that I do with my summer research students. In mid-spring, when the team first meets each other, I ask each person to introduce themselves with a phrase of the form

At the end of the summer, you will say I am fortunate to have worked with [fill in name] because [fill in reason].

Students generally have trouble figuring out what to say. Usually it’s something of the form because I worked hard or because I’m a nice person.

The paired activity happens at the end of the summer [1]. We go through each team member, one-by-one, and each other team member says I am fortunate to have worked with [team member] because [fill in reason]. My experience is that my students don’t think enough about their own accomplishments and strengths, but they are pretty good at identifying each others’ and, in doing so, make their peers and themselves feel an appropriate sense of accomplishment.

We debriefed tonight, after the last day of code camp and before going off to see The Big Sick [2]. But I think a few more statements are appropriate.

I am fortunate to have worked with the Summer 2017 Glimmer [3] team [4] because …

They formed a cohesive group, with each student taking on responsibilities as appropriate and with the whole team noticing when new responsibilities arose.

They were a lot of fun to work with, in spite of some of their musical and filmic preferences.

They took responsibility for designing the curricula for and running our two summer code camps. While I made some comments on curricula, I could generally sit back and trust that they would design and run things well. I could not have run the camps without them. They, on the other hand, could almost certainly have run the camps without me.

They regularly went above and beyond the call of duty. They worked 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. each day of camp. When we thought there would be thunderstorms on Wednesday and they’d planned a long afternoon activity on Wednesday, some of them stayed up until midnight on Tuesday to make sure that we had new curriculum for Wednesday. When we realized that the campers had trouble finding data sets in the appropriate form, the students stayed late finding and massaging data.

They came up with some astoundingly creative ideas. I particularly like the diplomas and camper notes, but there were also many others.

They were willing to challenge me when they thought I was wrong [5] and to nudge me when they thought I should be focusing on something else [6].

As a group, they were thoughtful and creative.

Perhaps most importantly, they are also genuinely nice people with whom it was a pleasure to work each day.

I’m sorry that the summer has ended [7]. I’d love to be able to work with them for another five weeks or more [8]. I look forward to working with many of them in various capacities throughout the school year and maybe even convincing one or two to return next summer [9].

[1] Yes, I tell them at that first meeting that we will do this at the end of the summer.

[2] Starring former research student Kumail Nanjiani. I don’t think anyone ever came up with I am fortunate to have worked with Kumail because he will release one of the great films of the year 2017.

[3] Grinnell Laboratory for Interactive Multi-Media Experimentation and Research. It should be GLIMMER, but I like mixed case.

[4] I will not provide the names of the students in a public document. They know who they are.

[5] It’s rare that I am wrong, but it does happen.

[6] I am more frequently off task than I would like.

[7] Officially, there are a few more weeks of summer. But their ten weeks of research are now done.

[8] That wish ignores the number of things I’m doing next week. For example, I am now booked solid from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Monday.

[9] Unfortunately, students are better off going off to internships or REUs, rather than returning to work with me. Still, it would be nice.

Version 1.0.1 of 2017-07-28.