January 2020 - Tips and Tricks: Dealing with Frustrations in Computer Science

    January 2020 - Tips and Tricks: Dealing with Frustrations in Computer Science

    Working with code can be frustrating.  Frustration can lead to feeling overwhelmed and young people giving up. Since our goal is to teach them to enjoy learning and keep their interest in computer science, we need to deal with this right away.  Resilience can be learned, and it’s up to us to teach it. First, we need to recognize the signs.

    1. Frustrated people have emotional outburst. Sometimes the outburst is about what they are doing, sometimes it’s because the kid next to him is chewing his gum too loudly.  Either way, it’s probably because something isn’t going right. That’s your clue to jump in and ask about their code.It’s very easy to look at code and fix what is wrong; however, a better approach would be to get them to talk through what their goals are and help talk them through what is going wrong.  Oftentimes this will allow them to see how to fix their own issues. Sometimes they won’t know all the tools they need. Please show them those tools and how to use them, but try to let them figure out the problem themselves. 

    2. Frustrated people stop trying – Sometimes you’ll look at a youth’s screen and it will be completely blank.  Chances are, if you had walked by a couple of minutes earlier, it would have been filled with code.  Some people deal with frustration and roadblocks by starting over at square one. This is where Control – z is your friend.  Undo what has been deleted, then sit with them and talk through the code. Frequently, there is a very minor mistake that is causing the failure and a fresh pair of eyes is all they need.  Even just talking through what is on the screen will sometimes unblock them. Remember to be empathetic and encouraging. They probably know more than they think they do, remind them of that. 

    No matter the frustration, setting a good example and dealing with the obstacles with good humor and encouragement is key.  If you have multiple people asking the same questions, it’s ok to stop everyone and cover the solution in detail. Some will be able to move on.  Ask them to help others. 

    Rachel Halseby

    Purdue University