Will's Coffee House

John Dryden, Dramatist, Critic, Poet Laureate, and my ancestor, frequented a coffee house called Will's almost daily, where he would hold forth on sundry subjects with great wit and aplomb. Same deal here, only without the wit or aplomb.

Location: Large Midwestern City, Midwestern State, United States

I am a stranger in a sane land...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Last Days

To all my fellow teachers, profs, and lecturers--is it just me, or do last days inherently suck? Much worse than first days--which likewise suck, but that's because you've got to do procedural crap and the students don't know or trust you and it's awkward and you don't really have time to build up a good solid head of 'thinking-out-loud' performative steam. But that's another bitch-and-moan for another day. Last days--what do you say?

"And so...there you go! All you'll ever need to know about this particular subject!" I think not.

"And so...now you can see just how much there is to learn about this subject..." Weak, very weak--impotence disguised as idealism.

"OK, so, here's what'll be on the final..." Pragmatic, but dull--do you really want to send them out with that ashy taste in their mouths?

"OK, well, um...it's been swell, thank you all so much..." Kissing up? Not pretty.

The fact is, and I tell my students this, that the last day of class is not like the last chapter in a mystery novel--it's not all going to magically tie together in the end. And frankly, I add, if I had anything important to say, I'd've said it already. They're wiped and terrified about the final and their last essays. I'm wiped in anticipation of grading those same documents. We're all tired and cranky and we just want to go home. Plus--you know--you've gotten to know and like these kids. (At least, I usually have.) And once the class ends--well, it's like the end of the run of a play--everybody hugs and cries and says "Oh, we must keep in touch"--and then you go your separate ways and never speak again. C'est la vie et le monde. And so for me, last days are anticlimactic and kind of hollow. Does anybody have any suggestions as to how to fix this?--and don't recommend bringing candy or pizza--that too is kissing up, and I just won't do it...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since the last day is inevitable maybe the thing to do is change the environment. At the college level you teach for so many weeks and then you will probably never see the same students again. However teaching in an elementary or secondary environment would allow you stay in touch with your students and watch them grow.

11:36 AM  
Anonymous Beatrice said...

Now THERE'S a viable suggestion, Dryden. I can definitely see you as a second-grade teacher, waving to the brand-new third graders across the hall with a warm, reassuring smile that says, louder than words ever could, "I'll always be here for you, little ones!"

If you'll excuse me, I have to roll around on the floor screaming with laughter for awhile. Kisses.

12:17 PM  
Blogger Yr. Hmbl. & Obdt. said...

The problem with Anonymous's suggestion is that in order to watch students grow, you have to *not* strangle them with your bare hands for being know-nothing, immature little s***s. And since I think I can guarantee that that *would* be the consequence of my being forced into a small enclosed space with 30-odd of the squirming larvae, it's probably best that I stay where I am and find some other way of dealing with my frustrations. Last thing we want is a situation that requires the local media to use the phrase "Police are still piecing together the events leading up to the tragedy..."

2:06 PM  
Anonymous Beatrice said...

Ahem...are you then implying that undergraduates are *not* know-nothing, immature little s***s?

2:18 PM  
Blogger Yr. Hmbl. & Obdt. said...

Of course not--but they're large enough so that I can control my desire to strangle them simply by virtue of self-protection.

2:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But at least you'd have your 15 minutes of fame!

9:47 AM  
Blogger Texter said...

it is melancholy, isn't it - the end of the semester. i find it so, but i think i like it because it reminds us of beginnings and endings, and is cyclical and seasonal. there is something beautiful about that, although i do tend to cling to the illusion of permanency ("let's keep in touch") i think i overcompensate by over-suggesting reading as the semester wears on, hoping to inculcate some intellectual values they will carry with them when they leave...

10:58 AM  

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