Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Close to the edge

There are only seven class days left in the semester.  I've been so busy, so bustling, so on point for the class projects that it's difficult for me to come to terms with that reality.  And even though the most stressful period has ended, final exams are approaching at a rapid pace, and I always have to scramble around that time.

Some professors probably dread finals week only because of all the grading that will ensue.  But I never formulate a plan for final exams until the last minute.  Part of the reason is that I almost never give conventional exams with students answering questions or writing essays; I prefer creating projects.  My students write collaborative essays, form editing and rewrite teams, and create peer education structures.

Because of the intensive service projects in both my classes this semester, I've backed off of the complicated finals.  My freshmen will divide labor on a half-dozen essay questions for short team oral presentations, and then everyone will write one essay reflecting on their service projects.  For my seniors, who have worked so hard and accomplished so much, a take-home final reflection on their project and a well-deserved celebration.

I'm not quite out of the thicket of projects yet; my freshmen have two separate efforts that will be going public next week.  Last-minute complications are sure to ensue.  But because I've been intimately involved with only one of the groups -- the one whose project is most under their control, with little necessity to get cooperation from others or pull off major events -- I'm feeling rather sanguine about it.  My teaching assistant is taking charge of the other group, and has done a great job getting them the support and participation they need from others.

Once it's all done, with finals and graduation behind me, I'm likely to experience a certain amount of shock.  For the last several weeks I've been working flat out, as hard as I ever have.  To have it all disappear in a matter of days, no matter how prepared I am for the drop-off, will no doubt leave me reeling and confused.  But with an empty calendar -- which should make it easier to cope.

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