Not with a bang but a whimper

The last teaching days of this semester were snow days. Two of them in a row. What a way to go out.

Image result for deflated balloon

Shocking precisely no one, I like to teach right up to the last minute. I had planned one more guided academic discussion (for a mark!), an exit survey/ teacher evaluation (which I keep and use to improve my teaching every year – and also to check that I’m teaching what I think I’m teaching), and a celebration/ reflection on our learning. No, not a party (imagine my students’ disappointment), rather a moment to take stock and find ways to represent our learning and then celebrate (and yes, I sometimes bring food). I was even going to read them one more poem. (Hey, who knows when they’re going to hear another one?)

So none of that happened. On the plus side, despite the lack of busses and the general emptiness of the school, six of my students showed up for the last day, which was kind of miraculous. (Because snow days here are really “no school transportation days” so schools are open and the teachers are required to be present, but the school buses don’t run. Since I teach at a magnet school, no buses = very very few students; “snow day” more accurately captures our truth.)

I was really sad about the way the semester petered out. I don’t think I realized how much I value the final moments with my students. I love helping them take the time to pause and see what they’ve accomplished. They are often astonished. I think this class would have loved this moment; I know I would have.

Instead, they came into their exam yesterday more nervous than they needed to be and without the sense of forward progress that can propel them to even greater achievement on their final exam. We made do: I added a group discussion to start; I circulated and reminded them of their strengths; I had donuts to entice them to take a stretch break if they wanted. They did fine, but I’m still thinking about the sense of an ending and how important it is. Finally, I couldn’t stand it and positioned myself to catch them on their way out the door. I asked each student what they thought they had learned. I knew that there was a possibility that they would say “nothing”, but most were thoughtful. In turn, I shared with them something I learned or was reminded of because I taught them.

Unusually, I got three hugs as the exam finished up. I’m going to miss this group – and next week, I’ll start to fall in love with the next.

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9 thoughts on “Not with a bang but a whimper

  1. Love the allusion: “Not with a bang but a whimper.” I’m an Eliot fan. This post captures so much of how I feel about teaching: unfinished business. Always. Then we begin the familiar yet new circle again. 🤗

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  2. The idea of semesters and starting with new classes midway through the year is foreign to me. I can only imagine how I would feel if the final two days of the school year vanished. Unsettling for sure! I keep thinking about this line, “…and without the sense of forward progress that can propel them to even greater achievement on their final exam” and about how important it is to foster that sense in students through honest reflection and celebration. Sounds like you adjusted and created the best situation possible for your students. Enjoy the next semester!

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  3. I have noticed as I get older the routines and systems I have established have become less flexible in my mind. It is important for the kids and us for there to be transitions. I am sure some of your students will find you next semester! I have no doubt the new group will have a special place in your heart too!!! Stay warm!

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    1. I hear you about routines getting less flexible as I get older. True story. Maybe I can use this to remind me to shake things up. And our school is small enough that I’m sure I’ll see these kids around.

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  4. I’m sad for you, but glad you had that final exam day in which you were able to connect and get your final message to your students. Down south we get a snow day if the temperature falls below freezing. Ha!

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  5. I’ve heard what can happen to those best laid plans, yet it’s better to have them (in my experience) than the alternative. Happy to hear how you made the most of the remaining time, and I also appreciated learning about quirky transportation ramifications when it snows where you are.

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