In college, one of my professors told a room full of future teachers that our second-hardest day of school would be our first day . . . because we don't know our students. The hardest day? Our last . . . because we do know our students.
I realized that for all the time I spend agonizing over the perfect first day, I rarely put much thought into the perfect ending. I usually write my seniors a letter, but mostly I just pass out a final exam and wave good-bye and good luck as they sprint out of the building. I decided to be more thoughtful and intentional about the ending this year.
For calculus, I allowed some extra days throughout the semester for the students to research and create mathematical art. I was very excited about this, as I am a wanna-be artist myself.
On the next-to-last day, we set up an art gallery and invited the faculty to come view our finished products. Some of the students did the minimum, but a few of them created some beautiful pieces.
"Can I keep that, please?", begs Mrs. Gruen shamelessly.
I cannot wait to hang these origami archimedean solids by my window!
The students all brought toppings and we had a taco bar lunch together between showings.
On the very last day I asked students to write letters to next year's calculus students. The letters were adorable, and insightful. I can't wait to share them with next year's class.
For physics (all the same students plus one extra), I scheduled the final exam so that we would have one day left afterwards.
I had a brief college advice session, sharing words of wisdom from someone who has been there (even though it was a long time ago). I talked about studying, advocating for yourself, communicating with teachers, and keeping your student loan total as small as possible. That stuff has to be paid back, people! If you sacrifice now by driving a reasonable car, working a part time job to pay the rent, and eating ramen instead of ordering so much pizza . . . . your future self will thank you. I promise.
And then there were presents!
For the girls, I made these necklaces featuring their college logo. I had a little help from Pinterest.
The boys got these clip boards with their college logo painted on the back. It is unusual to have them all going to the same school, but it happens to be my alma mater, so yay!
And finally, because it seemed like a very sophisticated thing to do, I brought glasses from home for a sparkling grape juice toast to their futures. There may have been a few tears.
My calculus and physics classes are usually small groups of all seniors. We become a little family during our year together. I start to feel like their Mom (or maybe a cool Aunt, because I like to pretend I am not old enough to be their mother). I teach them, cheer for them, advise them, and even get frustrated with them. But I still love them. And I will miss them.
Best wishes, class of 2013. You are going to love what comes next!