Wednesday, December 16, 2015

This Is How You End a Semester

For the past several days, I've been immersed in the process of ending a semester.  Eleven years ago when I was a novice in academia, I glibly believed that ending a semester would be quick, matter-of-fact, even.  (Ah, young grasshopper...)

After twenty-one semesters at the helm of a college classroom, I now know that ending a semester rarely is as quick or as matter-of-fact as I'd like it to be.  There are hard decisions regarding students who hover near the cusp of two grades.  There are passionate pleas from students who suddenly want extra credit despite not diligently attending to the regular credit for fifteen weeks.  There's the potential for backlash from students who are unhappy with their grades, even though they're the ones who earned them.

Although I've only experienced student backlash in numbers small enough to be considered statistically insignificant given the thousands of students I've taught, I'm often vaguely nervous as a semester draws to a close.  I scan my inbox warily for the subject line: "Final Grade."  I can recall a few of the more personal and painful end-of-semester skirmishes in great detail, in fact.  If I dwell on them, a sickening sensation rises up within me as if I'm experiencing them afresh.

But not this semester.

For all intents and purposes, this semester seems to be wrapping up smoothly.  Matter-of-fact, even.  I graded final projects from home one day earlier this week, which means that I procrastinated in highly productive ways.  (Floors vacuumed? Check.  Dishwasher empty?  Check.  Laundry folded, bookshelf straightened, bathroom sinks cleaned?  Check, check, check.)  For the remaining days, I stationed myself in my office where there is notably less opportunity for cleaning.

The efforts have paid off.  At this exact moment, my final grades are uploaded.  (And, as a bonus perk, my house is looking pretty good.)

I've received a handful of polite and easily handled grade inquiries, my favorite of which was when a student emailed to ask why he didn't receive full credit for participation.  After I supplied an answer, he wrote back, "Well, I can't argue with that.  Thanks for clarifying."

"Can't argue with that."  That's my boy.

This is how you end a semester.



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