Last Lecture Blues

I delivered the last lecture, technically the review and revision lecture, for my first year course today. As usual, when I’ve had a good group of students or a course I enjoy, the relief in having reduced my workload is minor compared to the realisation that another semester has come to an end and that this particular party is over.


Today’s lecture was optional but we still managed to get roughly 30% of the active class along. Questions were asked, questions were discussed, outline answers were given and then, although they all say and listened until I’d finished a few minutes late, they were all up and gone. The next time I’ll see most of them is at the exam, a few weeks from now. After that? It depends on what I teach. Some of these students I’ll run into over the years and we’ll actually get to know each other. Some may end up as my honours or post-graduate students. Some will walk out of the gates this semester and never return.

Now, hear me out, because I’m not complaining about it, but this is not the easiest job in the world. Done properly, education requires constant questioning, study, planning, implementing, listening, talking and, above all, dealing with the fact that you may see the best student you ever have for a maximum of 6 months. It is, however, a job that I love, a job that I have a passion for and, of course, in many ways it’s a calling more than a job.

One of the things I’ve had a chance to reflect on in this blog is how much I enjoy my job, while at the same time recognising how hard it is to do it well. Many times, the students I need to speak to most are those who contact me least, who up and fade away one day, leaving me wondering what happened to them.

At the end of the semester, it’s a good time to ask myself some core questions and see if I can give some good answers:

  1. Did I do the best job that I could do, given the resources (structures, curriculum, computers etc) that I had to work with?
  2. Did I actively seek out the students who needed help, rather than just waiting for people to contact me?
  3. Did I look for pitfalls before I ran into them?
  4. Did I look after the staff who were working with or for me, and mentor them correctly?
  5. Did I try to make everything that I worked with an awesome experience for my students?

This has been the busiest six months of my life and one of my joys has been walking into a lecture theatre, having written the course, knowing the material and losing myself in an hour of interactive, collaborative and enjoyable knowledge exchange with my students. Despite that, being so busy, sometimes I didn’t quite have the foresight that I should had had and my radar range was measured in days rather than weeks. Don’t get me wrong, everything got done, but I could have tried to locate troubled students more actively, and some minor pitfalls nearly got me.

However, I think that we still delivered a great course and I’m happy with 1, 4 and 5. I aimed for awesome and I think we hit it fairly often. 2 and 3 needed work but I’ve already started making the required changes to make this better.

On reflection, I’d give myself an 8ish/10 but, of course, that’s not enough. Overall, in the course, because of the excellent support from my co-lecturer and my teaching staff, the course itself I’d push up into the 9-pluses. I, however, should be up there as well and right now, I’m too busy.

So, it’s time for some rebalancing into the new semester. Some more structure for identifying problems students. Looking at things a little earlier. And aiming for an awesome 10/10 for my own performance next semester.

To all my students, past and present, it’s been fantastic. Best of luck with your exams!

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