If you're in academia, you could be forgiven for mistaking the end of the semester for the end of the world itself.
An obvious one perhaps, but true nonetheless. In the fall semester, you look around and realize that everything is dying, just like you’re dying a little bit inside, just like your dreams of staying on top of things and not ending up buried in work at the end are dying. If anything, the spring semester is worse. You feel no less dead inside, but the world around you is coming to life, mocking your growing despair, and the desire to just go play outside steadily overrides your desire to actually cross things off a seemingly endless to-do list.
If the instructor takes attendance, the impact is minimal. If the instructor does not take attendance, one day you walk into the classroom (if you’re actually attending class) and wonder if you’re even in the right spot—or maybe some sort of plague wiped out half the world’s population while you weren’t looking? This can be especially frustrating for instructors; of course, instructors believe everything that ever comes out of their mouths is possibly the single most important utterance ever pronounced, but this is even more true at the end of the semester, as instructions for final projects or hints about final exams are handed out.
Of course, when the students (and teachers) are actually in class, they are increasingly only partially there. At the best of times, students have a tendency to look like they’re in the waiting room at the dentist, or stare back at the instructor doing their best barrel of dead fish impression. Instructors are not immune, either. Prep time for classes has a way of steadily shrinking the closer one gets to the end, and alarmingly what can be accomplished in that time dwindles as well. The result is both students and teachers increasingly unprepared for class at the most important time of the semester.
Or other sources of caffeine, for you coffee haters. It’s just harder and harder to get up and moving, and harder and harder to get anything done once in motion. Coffee goes from a daily ritual to a trusted daily companion.
After an entire semester of sitting lonely, wishing at least one student would care enough about your course to stop by with a question, suddenly you have them lined up out the door. And of course, with the added workload, this is the one time of year you actually wish they’d stay away, so you can get some work done.
Cries for Help
Students, if you’ve been in college long, you’ve likely made at least one desperate plea for special treatment at around this time of year. Can I please get an extension on this assignment? Any chance I could actually answer that question I left blank on the exam I just took? And everyone’s favorite, can we do something for extra credit? Instructors, if you’ve taught for even one semester, you’ve likely heard all of these and more.
Sure, the students start pleading with the instructors, but instructors may also sense a note of pleading in their own voices, as they explain the remaining assignments and hope against hope that the students will actually buy in and make an effort to complete them. It’s never comfortable to stand at the head of a classroom and feel like you’re losing them even as you talk to them, or watch the eyes glaze over as you answer the same question for about the tenth time.
Now that you’ve wasted your valuable time reading this list, get back to work! The end of the semester is almost here!