As instructors, we have been taught that the first day of class is of monumental importance. We’re expected to learn student names, set a positive tone, be confident but approachable, and set clear expectations of our students. With the whole semester in front of us, it’s easy to be optimistic and upbeat on day one.
Day eighty is a whole different story, isn’t it? When you and the students are tired and filled with stress, it’s tempting to end the semester with a whimper instead of a bang. But when students walk out on the last day, they’ll take a final impression with them, maybe just as strong and important as the first. By the sixteenth week, you’ve spent many hours together and formed a community. Take a minute to say goodbye in a meaningful way.
Before handing out that last exam, you might recap the high points of the semester, or give a summary of what you’ve learned while teaching the class. Maybe read a quote that evokes a certain emotion about the content, or something inspirational that will help them get through a week of difficult exams and final projects.
During my final class, when my students hand in their tests, I say goodbye to each of them by name and say something personal about our shared experience. In that gesture, I set aside grades and missed due dates, and acknowledge that the semester was meaningful to me. I try to take those last moments to end the semester thoughtfully and with purpose.
For more ideas about ending the semester on a high note, see the Teaching Tip, “Bringing Closure” on the CTE website.