My favourite teacher in high school was Mrs. Frankiskos, who took us for maths in Matric. Beyond being a phenomenal maths teacher, she would spend time chatting to us before and after class where she’d impart her wisdom and knowledge. We’d have conversations about current affairs, our potential careers, gossip from around the school and receive general life advice.
However, in the last few weeks of our final year these discussions happened less and less. In fact, she started to become colder towards us. I was confused by this, and approached her one day before class.
She said that the most difficult part of teaching for her was saying goodbye to the class at the end of the year. Seeing her students leave was painful because she had invested so much in getting to know and understand them. And suddenly they were gone. So in the last few weeks of term, she’d pull back and try to divest and dissociate so that it hurt less.
I didn’t quite understand this until I begun teaching at the University. My first taste of it was with my management accounting students in 2014. When I said goodbye to my first two tutor groups I had such a sense of loss. I felt like I’d grown so close to them, and that I’d never get to interact with them again.
Over the past two years that feeling has only been amplified. In my role as an assistant lecturer (on the Strategic Thinking course), not only do I have more influence on their learning but I also interact more in consultation with certain students. I’ll often be involved in giving career advice, assisting with their startups and helping them get through the year
Furthermore, in both years I’ve been in charge of a team of tutors on the course. It is difficult not to get close to the tutors, as we have such great discussions and I get to guide them and watch them grow. And they also leave at the end of the year.
Finally, convening a course this semester (Management Theory in Practice) has resulted in the most difficult goodbye of them all. The class had 45 students, so it was small enough for me to get to know them all. I marked every one of their assignments and exams, including a deeply personal leadership manifesto which was the final paper for the course. I also got to know the businesses they had all started, and went along to events to support them whenever I could.
I’ve watched them grow, mature and change this semester. And knowing I won’t see many of them again is heartbreaking.
The Goodbye Message
On both courses today I sent out a goodbye message. It definitely made me feel more sad, but it also provided closure. In both messages, I thanked the students and said that if they ever wanted to reach out I’d always be happy to chat.
I included this quote in both messages:
“When you achieve your dreams, it’s not so much what you get, it’s who you become in achieving them”
Henry David Thoreau
I think that, as with Mrs Frankiskos, saying goodbye is definitely going to be the most difficult part of teaching for me. Though I don’t think I’ll be able to employ the same strategy as her to ease the pain, I know I will develop my own one in time.
And despite being sad to see my students go, I can’t wait to see them flourish.
Image is taken at my old school during the rugby festival in 2011. I thought the rain was quite appropriate
Blog 40/365. Read more about my #365of25 journey here