I am bad at goodbyes. I was always horrible at breakups. I tend to let friendships fade out rather than end in some kind of fiery glory of true “Fin!”. And this all equates to my final few weeks of the semester being horrible. I used to think it was because I was tired of my students or burnt out from all the grading and stress of end-of-year events, etc. But, no. I now believe it is really because I’m bad at goodbye.
I want to be the kind of teacher that has that last day of class that looks like a scene from Dead Poet’s Society, where I stand on my desk and provide my students with a life-changing soliloquy of life and love, lost and gained. But, instead, I drag in, carrying a way-too-full work bag full of papers that need grading, pass out their multiple choice final (which tests little of their knowledge gained during the semester) and then tell them “Have a good break.” as they walk out the door, many of them to never be seen again. None of them finding the experience life-changing in any way, shape or form. They may have enjoyed the class (at least some of them say they did), but none of them are walking away from the experience with any real sense of closure.
Its funny in a way, because I teach public speaking and one thing that beginning speakers are usually poor at doing is closing their speech. You get those awkward endings with people pausing, and the audience wondering if they should applaud or if the person is going to continue, and the speaker has to say, “That’s it. I’m done.” That is what I feel like my finals are like. An awkward pause while the students are thinking, “is this really IT?” and then me saying, “that’s it…have a good break.” and everyone leaves slightly let down.
So, I can’t change it for this semester, but it is something I plan to work on for next semester. I’m considering doing away with any kind of traditional final exams in my classes. No more Scantrons. No more multiple choice questions that fail to capture the true learning that has (or has not) taken place during the semester. But, I need to figure out something to replace it with. I like what this Professor from Georgetown has to say (and I don’t think I remember a single final I took – papers I wrote, yes, but finals I took, no): “Meaningful Exams for a Meaningful End.” My friend reads “Oh, the Places You Will Go,” by Dr. Seuss, but he teaches mostly seniors and I teach a lot of Frosh. End of the semester conferences, like these discussed in “Ending the Semester on High Note,” also sound intriguing, but a little difficult to fit in those last few weeks (since I have performance-based classes where speeches are being given, etc.). There are a lot of ideas floating around out there in the internets…I just need to figure out which will work for me and my classes. But, I am definitely open to suggestion!
So, that is one of my “teacher goals” for the summer. To figure out how to put the Good in my end-of-semester Goodbyes.