500 Words At A Time: First & Last Days

Two of my favorite times during a semester are the first day of classes and the last day of classes.

First days of classes are filled with unknowns or mostly unknowns.

Who is the professor?

Who is in the class?

What will be taught and/or the focus of the class?

How much work is there going to be?

Will I be handed a syllabus or a manifesto?

I like the unknowns. When you sign up for a class the only things you really know are the title of the class, a brief synopsis of the class, the time of the class, the instructor, the location of the class, and the number of students in the class. However, between signing up for a class and the first day of the class things can change, such as the time, the location, and the instructor.

On the first day you get to see the people in the class, first impressions count for…next to nothing. You get to meet the professor, listen to their opening day spiel, and form your opinion about the professor, here first impressions count for a lot, and see what the class is about. Best about first days is that the classes tend to be short-quickest first day was three minutes from door to door and that included picking up the syllabus from the table.

Last days are full of knowns. I know the class. I know the professor. I know the work. I know all that I did not know on the first day.

Last days are even better than first days. At least for me. Being an organized, self-motivated, and unconcerned with grades person that I am last days are mostly about getting away from the students who have been annoying me all semester. I am an outlier.

For most students, last days are about stress. Grade stress, will I pass. Exam stress, cram for final exam. Project exam, cramming to finish final projects and turn them on time. Leave campus stress, making sure to get one last party in, pack up, and get out and back home before the dorms close.

There have been a few classes that I was bummed to see end because I was having fun, learning more and could see that there was more to learn, and/or got along well with the professor. Most of the classes, I was glad for the last day to come and be done with because I was done with the class. Done with the class usually resulted from the students. I can only tolerate so much student, roughly 15 weeks.

It has been my experience that students more than professors and material make or break a class. Students can make a class by contributing to the conversation, providing insights, and being fun without being disruptive. Students can break a class by not taking part in the conversation, being stupid or behaving in a stupid fashion (read trying to be funny and failing), being disruptive, being disrespectful, and for those always fun group assignments, not pulling their weight and putting the work on others in the group.

Last days are also more fun because once the work is over, I get to play.

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