Several people have been writing very movingly about their last days of class -- a day that I already had last week. My classes all ended a week ago Thursday, but I had final projects for one class due this past Monday, giving them an extra weekend. So Monday afternoon I sat in my office and students dropped by in various stages of caffeinated excitement to hand over their projects (some required materials that couldn't be turned in electronically). It was fun, in a way -- some of these projects are really exciting for them and for me -- but it attenuates the long goodbye process of the semester. We still have a final exam day next week, which is even weirder. I'm not very good at saying goodbye and so it feels kind of weird to have this sequence of moments of closure: last lecture, last paper, last exam. Especially since this particular batch of students were special favorites of mine.
About half the class will submit their projects over this weekend or coming Monday, taking advantage of the grace period I allow them (with appropriate points deducted from their final grade). I set up the grace period system so that I don't have to hear any excuses about why an assignment isn't ready on the due date -- everyone knows that if it's not ready, they have one more week. Easy. No complicated judgments required about ailing grandmothers or flailing hard drives. But even though excuses or explanations aren't necessary, some students offer them anyway. Best one I've received in a while was from a girl who's quiet, reserved, kind of conservative in appearance and demeanor. She wrote to tell me that her paper would be delayed because of the big football game -- because she's the mascot. Now, this is one of those funny little glimpses into a student's extra-curricular life that you sometimes get by looking at their email aliases (grrrlsk8r or luvswhales) -- it doesn't change anything about her intelligence or her performance in my class -- but it sure as heck was surprising. I just keep thinking, "so you're the kind of person who dresses up in a furry suit and runs around acting crazy?"
Like some of the other teachers I cited, I do perform some larger-scale wrapping up on the last day -- usually building on student discussion about the course as a whole (what did you expect to read in Literature of X, how have your ideas about the topic changed), throwing in some review for the final exam (here's the grand overview of the major themes of the semester), and adding some of the Big Idea sentences: Why I think literature is important. Why I think this literature is important. What we can all learn from this. Etc. I don't plan this stuff (it's embarrassing enough to admit it here), but it often winds up coming out of my mouth anyway if I get warmed up enough. And if not on the last day, then when, you know?
So yeah, I'm the person in the professor suit running around saying Grand Things about Literature and the Meaning of Life. Hopefully you wouldn't guess that to look at me. . .