The last day of classes each semester is just bittersweet.
For fifteen weeks every student I teach (whether is 80 students this semester, or around 200 in the Spring) becomes part of a metaphorical extended family. I spend as many hours a week as a did as provost and dean working (60-80 hours) to teach the best that I can, and engage with every single one, trying to meet them where they are so they can reach their full potential in my classes. In my older age, I had to come full circle to see teaching being a far more rewarding activity than senior university administration.
And, although I still am intellectually inspired by mine and others research, the stories I told myself regarding the importance of my research to the world seem now to have been a bit hyperbolic.
In the universe of college teaching, 15 week semesters are the defined lifetime. I watch students (and me) grow, struggle, hurt, and hopefully experience joy in learning as we mature together. And, then, suddenly, just as trust is solidified with as many students as possible, the rhythm of learning expectations gets in sync, and when my engagement with student ignites parental like pride and intense parental like worry, the semester ends. Then for the next couple of weeks, I am stranded on a beach, mourning, as students drift away into the sea as the tide ebbs.
Yet, before I know it, and without warning, even I know it is coming, a new group of students will envelope me like sea water envelops a beach grass during a hurricane, and then the storm will subside, and the 15 week cycle will start again.
The UNCG students I have come to know are an amazing compassionate, trustworthy, authentic, unentitled bunch with grit, determination, and heartfelt appreciation for being noticed and cared about. And, I really care about the life stories of these people. I can only hope they will continue to share their biographies, and that their biographies will become a source of fascination and celebration.
I will end where I started because the academic rhythm is an indeterminate loop...
The academic rhythm is beautiful, but it has its melancholy moments