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End of Term
And all the feelings
My last class of the fall semester was Monday of this past week. Some have classes into December. All of us will reach the semester’s end at some point soon. What can be said from this vantage point?
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.
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 the profession by teaching emerging lawyers, 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.
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 have already offered a presentation at an education conference in Australia, this week (virtually), and will give another talk (in person) in Las Vegas in two weeks. This is what teachers do in the time between semesters - we read and learn and exchange ideas with colleagues, and try to stay sharp and improve.
There is a feeling of needing a change of venue. A vacation - to go somewhere to have a break. It can be modest and still effective, but any vacation is obviously much harder to achieve right now. Although not impossible, with perhaps a drive to a nearby city and a hotel you trust. Or perhaps even getting on an airplane, with the precautions of vaccination and double-masking. But it does help to go somewhere that is not your usual location. This is particularly important when so much of our work has been done in the home, over most of the last 19 months.
There is a feeling that the new semester will be here before we know it. And so part of the daily brain processing time is thinking of what we will do the same as before and what we will try to improve.
There is a 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 grading 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. And this period of Covid continuing to cast a shadow of uncertainty over our lives can make this even worse.
There is a feeling of needing to recharge. Last summer, 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.
There is the feeling of looking forward to seeing family members - or spending more time with family members - particularly when the break between semesters includes major holidays. Young children out of school and at home can make the days even more complicated, and reduce the amount of time to recharge. It can be a very busy time of year, and so the days can get away from you.
As the semester break begins for me, these are the feelings I am reminded of, and perhaps they remind you of your own. Or you have some different feelings, which I hope you will share with a comment below!
Letters of Recommendation
I have three more newsletters to recommend this week. First up, I have already cited to Ed Zitron, who is writing about the changing workplace, and in particular, the growth of remote work:
Jeremy Caplan is Director of Teaching and Learning at the Journalism school at City University of New York, and writes Wonder Tools, a newsletter about new tech productivity tools:
Nadia Bolz-Weber is a Lutheran minister and a certified badass, and she writes The Corners. She has written several best-selling books, and preached this sermon at my church last Sunday. Whether you are religious or not, if it doesn’t bring to mind the Rittenhouse verdict for you, I would be surprised:
Q of the Week
The Q of the Week this week is a Quote from that last newsletter I recommended above, by Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber:
I took Twitter off my phone 6 months ago and It felt…like having a tumor removed…like, sure it hurt for a while but the pain was worth the increased life expectancy. For the last several years it has felt like being a progressive on social media is like playing a poorly designed video game in which you never actually engage the other team, you just earn ranking points by showing how the people on your own team are wrong. If you can call out the ideological impurity of another person’s tweet, you get to level up in the game and call it “activism”.