It Begins When it Ends: Saying Farewell to Students

As the semester ends at Penn State, I face these students one last time.  We’ll never be together like this–in this way–again.  These freshman will move on, and I’ll remain to greet the next class in January.

I never know what to say on the last day.   It never comes out right.  

Sometimes I just say good-bye and shoo them all away like they’re magnificent interruptions to my important schedule. They walk past my desk, and I pretend not to miss them already. 

I remember a seminary professor who told me this:  “A good course is never finished;  it just begins when it ends.”

We aren’t ending.  We’re beginning.   That helps me walk away.  I might not ever see them again, but I hope that something began in them this semester. 

Great teachers begin something beautiful.  Lord, let me be that teacher.

What was your best teacher–or best course– like?   

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  1. John Moore's (PennState) class on epic literature.  In this class we discoverd epic heroes who demonstrated how to live in a fallen world.  The course culiminated with Paradise Lost in which we see Adam and Eve succumb to temptation not because they are evil but because they loved each other, the very essence of being human.  It was very liberating and helped to undo some of the damage done in sixteen years of Catholic schooling.  I am proud to say I remain a friend of John Moore.

  2. My English teacher at my school here in Eastern Germany.  He had just finished his studies and we were one of the first classes he had teached so far.
    Unlike many older teachers in Eastern Germany who were not allowed to visit English speaking countries during GDR times he had actually been to England and the U.S.  during University. The stories he told and the things he knew about the people living there were exciting to hear and I could feel he really loved the subject he was teaching. I think it was the first time in my life I realized that to learn, to fully understand a language means you always need to be willing to learn about the culture and the people as well or else you will always be repeating some phrases out of your text book instead of being able to communicate.