End of Semester
A reprise and a reflection.
I find myself once again at the end of the fall semester reflecting on what has been accomplished. This caused me to look back at a letter I wrote to you last year this time. Instead of just reprinting it, I thought I would quote from it and reflect on how it is the same, or different, this year.
There is a feeling of accomplishment. In almost every case, our students moved from point A to point B. Perhaps not perfectly, but they all reached a level of understanding and achievement of the learning goals we set out for them at the beginning of the semester. You can see this in their work product, but also in the smiles on their faces. Smiles that come from being glad to be finished with the work you gave them, but also their own feeling of accomplishment. It is always a good sign when your students are smiling on the last day of the semester.
Again this year, I feel this sense of accomplishment. Students once again had smiles of accomplishment on the last day of class. For me, this fall was particularly difficult, because of the conference in September, and I was finishing the book, but mostly because of a rash of personal matters, with three Covid-delayed memorials of family members, each an airplane ride away. If I learned anything this fall, it was that I can do such a thing - be away several weekends in a row - and still keep things going in the classroom. But I also learned it came at a price, which reminded me of this excerpt from last year:
There is a feeling of exhaustion. I don’t know about you, but at the end of the semester I am completely out of gas. Just tapped. I remember when I switched from practicing law to teaching it, I was kind of surprised that I was so exhausted at the end of the semester. But then I realized that this is as it should be. If I was going to leave the profession to give back to students, I was going to have to bring my “A” game every day to that enterprise. So I should be out of gas at the end of the semester. As I get older, it seems like this feeling is even more pronounced.
This year, after the book, conference, and all that travel, I had a bout of vertigo, and had to have my TAs take a class for me (which I almost never do).
On a more encouraging note, I wrote this last year:
There is a feeling of time opening up. That is, instead of being hemmed in by the class schedule, there is time to engage with colleagues, explore new topics of interest, and the luxury of extended time to read.
I will be attending our annual conference this year - which will be in-person for the first time in three years - to learn some new things, to reconnect with friends and colleagues, and to flog the book, which will “launch” at the conference. (If you would like to know more about that, here is a page on my publisher’s website with an excerpt from the book).
Last year I also noted that grading is inevitably a part of this time of year:
There is the feeling of the mountain of grading casting a shadow over each day of the break period, until it is finished. This is obviously not the best part of the break between semesters, but it is a reality. The earliest you can get that finished, the better, because those days of break after being finished with grading are closer to being truly “clear.” But it also must be accepted that some years we are simply too exhausted to get to grading right away.
I am once again trying to find time for grading while the family events start to ramp up as we approach Christmas. It is an annual struggle.
There is a feeling of needing to recharge. Last year, I wrote one of these letters with suggestions about ways in which teachers can, and should, recharge before the new school year begins. This is perhaps even more important to do intentionally during the shorter breaks that we have at this time of year.
With the need to spend some time recharging during this break in mind, The Chalkboard Life will be on hiatus until the New Year.
It will return on January 7th.
Sometimes, the best thing I can do is sit on the couch and read a book. There is something that recharges me about spending the better part of a day doing only that. So far, I have not been able to do so. But the book I recommend below is calling me to the couch…
What do you do to recharge after the fall semester?
Letters of Recommendation
This week - in the evenings - I have been reading a fascinating book by Tom Lewis about the history of the construction of the interstate highway system in the United States. It is called Divided Highways: Building the Interstate Highways, Transforming American Life. Having driven on these highways for much of my life, I realize I had - as most of us do - taken them for granted. Assumed, in a way, that they were always there (although I knew better). This is the story of how they were built, and most importantly, their impact on the country - the good and the bad.
A quick reminder: all books I recommend here are available at a discount in The Chalkboard Life’s Bookshop, which you can visit here!
Q of the Week
The Q of the Week this week is a Quote from the great and powerful writer James Baldwin:
You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.