The Best Last Class Ever: Flowers, Chocolates, and Reimagining

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 53 seconds

Anyone who knows me well knows I always start the semester loving my students before I meet them. This seems odd, but I knew that I loved my child before she was even conceived, and definitely when she was in my womb before she was born. It is not that different with students. I start out loving them, and as I get to know them as individuals and as a group, my love for them grows in different directions. Teaching makes me happy, and when it goes well, it’s the best feeling in the world… and when it doesn’t go well, it really affects me.

Just before the pandemic hit, I worked with two of my students to “futurize my course” and the key things they said I should always “keep” and grow in my class is the community and care aspect. When COVID hit, this became my focus even more than it normally is. When we came back to in-person teaching, I knew intuitively that it would be hard. Not a simple, smooth, “back to how we were” but a tentative, rocky, “learning to be together again” and community and care continued to be a focus.

This semester, as with last semester, in every class session, I gave students a short 5 minute break and brought snacks. Snacks have always been part of my teaching, but not EVERY class session. This year, it was EVERY class session.

So, today, last day of the semester, I pass by the supermarket across from campus to get savory biscuits, and I’m disappointed that it’s closed, so I resign myself that today students will get chocolate and dates from my office.

I have some slides ready and a warm up activity od “what kind of plant would you be?”, same as I used in my OTESSA22 keynote yesterday. We went around the room and each answered the question, then students for some reason kept asking what my fave flower was. And I was like, I love flowers of all kinds, I can’t pick one. And I also told them the quote I used to love while I was a university student myself. You know the one, “if the rose at noon has lost the beauty it had at dawn, the beauty it had then was real” and it goes on about how nothing lasts forever but we should enjoy it while it lasts?

We then start doing an activity related to digital identity and then one of the students mentions how one of their colleague doesn’t have any social media (because I asked), and I said, “well, he is late, he isn’t here, so let’s move on?”. And then I see a student making a call, and I’m like, “wait, why are you calling someone during class time?”. And he goes, “well, I am calling…” (the person we said doesn’t have social media. I was like, “why? He is often a few mins late, no need to call him!”.

And then, I don’t remember how many minutes later this happens, but two students walk into class holding this HUGE BOX with “Just for You” on it and a lovely bouquet of flowers… and I try not to cry… because my students just surprised me with a gift and flowers. And I open the box and it’s got boxes and boxes of chocolates of all kinds, I think as much chocolate as I have given them all semester! I took a photo and I am adding it below:

Red box with "Just for you" (contains chocolate but you can't really see it) and bouquet of flowers
Flowers and chocolate from my students this semester. So. Much. Chocolate.

So that was a beautiful moment. And I went to my office to put the flowers in water and came back to finish up class before we could share some of the chocolate together. So. Much. Chocolate.

The last part of the class, I invited students to reimagine the class, including “anything else” which was pretty popular! Among their awesome suggestions was for students to share in the snacking and sometimes have cultural snack themes and extend snack times occasionally to a full breakfast, get more fruits (I get bananas and dates, sometimes, but rarely anything else super healthy), to do more outdoor activities in the garden, and to have classes where student groups prepare the entire class session. They also asked for field trips and more breathing/meditation activities (they enjoyed it when guest Clark Shah-Nelson led them through one). And they suggested the class keeps a social media page to share their learning in public sometimes.

This all sounds doable! And I think I will try most of it!

Best last class ever!

Group reimagination. Text on top of purple paint splash
Group reimagination slide. Slide theme from Slides Carnival

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