Peek Behind the Curtain

I’m done with final grades. Yay! I’ll still be turning them in on the day of the deadline tomorrow, but having smaller classes this semester meant that I haven’t been up all hours of the night pushing to get the grades done; I don’t need to drop over from exhaustion for the next 3 days either. As a matter of fact, I think I’ll spend the next three days catching up with old friends and moving my office — again.

And, with this sanity and lack of sleep deprivation, I’m actually able to reflect on the semester. It turns out that overall I had a good group of students this semester. It wasn’t my most energetic class; certainly, I didn’t feel like I was half teacher, half manager of a three ring circus. And, I missed that energy a little bit (I think… ask me next semester if I have a three ring circus on my hands). But, this class turned out to be full of hard workers. It took awhile; I wasn’t sure about six weeks in if we were ever going to gain momentum or if we were just going to drag through a miserably long winter, trudging through the snow to meet at 8:00 am. But, then somehow we picked up steam, and most of the students this semester were willing to try and try and try again if that is what it took to succeed. They might be my class that embraced the writing process in all its revisionary glory to the fullest. (And, though I like meeting with students, I have to give a shout out to the writing center for all the assistance they provided in the revision process).

I was quite chagrined when the best goal that students could come up with at the beginning of the semester was to get a good grade, but now that grades are in, I’m pretty pleased that many of them made those goals. I’m pleased because they worked hard to get there and because they were able to do a pretty decent job of articulating what they needed to learn to reach their goals — skills they probably weren’t even capable of articulating at the beginning of the semester.

The end of semester letters that they wrote were a treat. I usually approach these letters with a mix of trepidation and eagerness. It’s fun to see the little class illustrations that I used come trickling into these letters. What teacher doesn’t love to have an “aha! they were listening” moment every now and then? And, sometimes I cringe when the letter says something like, “I’m really, really glad that I learned not to use empty modifiers because avoiding them will make my writing much, much better.” (example has been changed to protect the guilty). But, I love when these letters have humor in them, either when a student is able to take joy in their own learning process or when a student for a brief moment seems to see things from my vantage point in the classroom. Here was a gem from this semester:

Now, I think I’m finally begging to understand when and when not to use a comma. (But old habits die hard, so please laugh instead of crying your eyes out when you see all the comma-related errors in this letter. No, I didn’t make them on purpose. Sorry.)

Teaching — there may be some days when it’s hard to show up for work to hear about one more second cousin twice removed who had to be picked up from an airport three states away which accounts for three days of missed classes or when I think I will go insane if I see one more run-on sentence, but stepping back to look at the big picture makes the jumping into the crazy cycle of a semester with a new group of students each semester worth it.