It’s the last week of the semester, and my college students stare at me bleary-eyed. Loaded down with upcoming exams and final projects, sleep is definitely high on their wish list for the holiday break. “I just want it to be over,” one of my students told me. “I am so freakin’ tired!”
Me too. Facing the last blast of papers and projects coming in and final grades to submit, I’m more than ready to push the pause button on school. Not only am I eager to spend time with my family and savor the holidays, but I also can hardly wait to have a block of time to focus on my own writing.
Still, I have to admit that I always have mixed feelings about the ends of semesters. The truth is I invariably get attached to my students, and the thought of not seeing and working with many of them anymore makes me sad.
Maybe it’s because I teach English composition and we do a lot of sharing of our work in class, but my students start to get to know each other and I get to know them—and pretty soon, we’re a community. I know that long after this semester is over, I will still think about the student athlete who spent his eighth grade year homeless and dreams of getting his mom a nice house one day. And I’ll wonder about the biracial young woman who sits next to him and wants to become a doctor, even though the white members of her extended family have told her she’s “trash that won’t amount to anything.”
And I’ll miss those students who let me know I made a difference to them—the 31 year old waiter back in school who turned out to be one hell of a writer and wrote me about how much my encouragement had meant to him. And the engineering student who shared with me that after dreading my class, he got so excited about writing that he’s now working on a novel.
I’m so grateful to have been part of their journey and to have made a difference in their lives, just as they have been such an amazing gift in mine.
But we teachers are a pit stop. In January, my students will have a new batch of instructors, and I’ll have a new batch of students. And chances are that this spring at semester’s end, I’ll feel a little sad and wistful – and so grateful—all over again.