Beki Grinter

The End of the Semester

In academia, computer science on December 14, 2010 at 2:59 pm

I’ve written about teaching nerves, and the anticipation of that new semester and new academic year. This week is finals week, the semester is now almost over. I’m writing this post as much for me as for anyone else, although I will always gladly take comments. This post is about the end of the semester and the feelings that I come to have by week 16, it’s a reminder of them, that I plan on re-reading shortly before I start teaching again.

Last week I said goodbye to the students who I had seen on a regular basis for 16 weeks. I am sure that they didn’t all share the same feelings I had, which were those of a type of sadness that comes with knowing that people you’ve seen routinely will now fade into the student body. For a small group of those students, that actually won’t be much of a change from the times when we did meet. However, for the large majority whose personalities have been more evident to me, I’ll miss their habits and being able to potentially predict what they might say.

There are the students who always sit in the same place. Even if they say nothing, I know where they will be. They are also the ones that look vaguely confused if someone else happens to take their seat. There are the students who show up for exams in pajamas and other fine attire (I had a student who wore a shirt suggesting to me that he was in Spain when they won the World Cup this year, I thought what a fantastic experience that must have been and wondered whether that was made possible by the GT Barcelona program). T-shirts with lots of geek humour made me smile, and appreciate the sensibilities of their wearers. And of course there were students who were preparing for job interviews and came to class looking much tidier than the instructor, a piece of me was rooting for their success, another wondering whether I should have combed my hair or attempted something more tidy for class myself.

Then there are the students who speak during class discussions. I learnt so much from them, not just content that was related to the class, but through their perspectives about their lives, their experiences and so forth. Glimmers into the myriad of different worlds that our student body collectively comprises. Over the course of the sixteen semesters I watched as people found their voices, saw individuals drawing connections among the different elements of the class materials. I guess that’s what it means to watch learning happen. I had after-class encounters. Sometimes a little awkward, not everyone wants to hang out with their Professor on the Tech Trolley, it’s not very hip after all. Ah, I remember feeling the same. That was a long time ago. But others wanted to chat, about class, about life outside of class. Some wanted to know about England, what could I tell them about student life there and so forth.

And now that’s done. It is time for all of us to move on to the next challenge. People I saw routinely will no longer be in that circle, but I am sure I will continue to catch glimpses of them as they move around campus into new classrooms and experiences. I started with apprehension and ended by missing those familiar students.

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