Today is the umpteenth last day of class in the umpteenth semester I’ve taught English composition. So today is the umpteenth time I teased a charming roomful of students gathering for the last time with the farewell address that opens like this: “Of all the classes I’ve taught over the years, I want y’all to know that (pause for dramatic effect) . . . you’re one of them.”

The electronic age has not diminished the need to grade papers, but its technology does let you know where you stand as you grade paper by paper.  Consolation?  No.

The electronic age has not diminished the need to grade papers, but its technology does let you know where you stand as you grade paper by paper. Consolation? No.

Of course, I go on to assure them that I’m making a good-natured joke and that they really DO have a special place in my heart for no other reason than that they were students whose lives and careers and minds (and hopefully hearts) I reached in some way.

This last-day-of-class every semester always yields a post-partum effect. It’s a bittersweet moment after the stretching and reaching and striving that I exert in teaching and which most of them exert in learning: bitter insofar as this commingled set of relationships, tempered by the fire and trial of group endeavor, is ending; sweet insofar as I’ll be free next week and thereafter at this hour on this class’s meeting days.

Of course, the day is also bitter because now multiple sections have just turned in multiple sets of long, complex papers that require critical reading for grading. That’s no fun at all.

No, true happiness (from release from classwork) won’t arrive until the following week when the last paper is graded and the last final grade is submitted. Then we’ll celebrate a happy ending.

At least until next semester starts next month in the rolling cycle of the academy.

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