Many of us are in finals week right now, or just coming off finals, or just entering them, right now. And we could all use a few reminders at this time when our brains feel like they’re in a pressure cooker, when we’re numbly doing that math of “If it takes me X minutes to grade one of these, then I can do Y of them in Z time if I…” So, here’s a few reminders to help you through:
- Your students are learning. Don’t shame them for not knowing things. If there’s something they don’t know, maybe you didn’t teach it to them?
- But be kind to yourself. You can’t teach all things to all students. And there’s so many variables out of your control, statistically speaking, it’s probably not your fault.
- Remember all the times you’ve been shown mercy as a student. Show mercy because you’ve been shown mercy.
- If this week feels oppressive, that’s because it is. Our grading systems are terrible and procedurally teach that people and their complex abilities can be reduced to a letter grade based on an hour’s performance in an artificial setting at an arbitrary time, but we’re all so overworked we don’t really have the resources to reform them. See number 3 for ways to make it better.
- Your students don’t have a lot of experience taking exams, doing final papers, etc. You have a lot of experience, though. Enough to understand that it’s ok to fail sometimes. But they don’t know that yet. Through your grace and understanding, show them it’s going to be ok.
- Show yourself it’s going to be ok. Give yourself the same kindness you give your students. Running late grading that stack of papers? What would you say to a student who is having severe anxiety about a deadline? Say that to yourself.
- Be open to the wonderful things that will happen this week. It’s not all stress. It’s a whirlwind of memories and goodbyes and gratitude all mixed up with terror and anxiety and too much everything. And as the hierarchical nature of our relationships with students starts to crumble in the face of the end of the semester, beautiful things will happen. That student who didn’t say a word to you will open up and thank you for understanding. That colleague you thought was avoiding you will apologize. That one weird kid in your class will ask you about how to change their major to your field because something in your class clicked. Donuts will show up in the break room. It’s random. And it’s beautiful.
- Plan a reward for yourself. Me, I’m going to curl up with a video game and a cat when it’s all done. =^.^=