Monday, December 11, 2017

Bittersweet Endings

capri23auto via Pixabay
This morning, I had my last class with my freshman. I have to admit, it was bittersweet.

For the third year in a row, I had a fantastic group of young adults and, once again, I had a fellow (a sophomore) who was the cherry on top of the sundae. I looked forward to going to class every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, to the discussions, the questions, the silliness and, on Friday mornings, the Grey's Anatomy reviews.

I enjoy teaching. With the possible exception of my first year when I had a group of seventh graders who gave me a run for my money, I always have. But there is something special about teaching a first year seminar. While part of it is the topics we cover, most of it is the kids -- "my" freshmen.

  • They're open. Brand new to the college experience, freshmen are sponges. They want to know and understand everything about how things work on campus. Tentative at first, they come out of their shells as the semester progresses and, if I succeed in building a warm climate in the classroom, they ask questions and share things that are relevant to them
  • They're curious. Establishing an identity is part and parcel of this age. Bring up topics that help them to explore who they are and they're all in.  
  • They're enthusiastic. Sure, they love all the things you'd expect them to love: sleep, food, unexpected free time -- but they're also enthusiastic about learning. Ready to be finished with high school and embark on this new adventure, they arrive primed to take it all in. If I play my cards right, I can keep them at that point for the rest of the semester, or at least until sleep deprivation kicks in.
  • They participate. Okay, so this one is an imperfect science even with freshmen, but they do participate more than many of my upperclassmen do. The result is a class that's more interesting all around.
I tell my students -- all of them -- that once they are in my class, they are "my" students forever. If they ever need an ear, an assist or a favor, they should feel free to contact me. Some take advantage of this, and some turn up on my roster for other classes in future semesters. I'm always happy to see them again (or at least I have been so far), but it doesn't make the end of FYS any less bittersweet. Like lightning in a bottle, it's a unique phenomenon -- one that's hard to explain and impossible to recreate in exactly the same way again.

But it's always fun to try and, in so doing, capture the unique essence of the next group of freshmen.


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