My First Last Lecture

Monday was the last day for my big class. Meeting twice a week cut the time in half for this one-credit course. Despite being the largest class I’ve ever taught and the first never to meet face-to-face, they are the most fun group of students I’ve ever had.

I launch the Zoom fifteen minutes early with my camera off. A Spotify playlist of vintage R&B artists (Aretha, Roberta Flack, M People, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and others) fills the awkward pre-class silence. All my students were born after 2000 so it’s all new to them.

Comments about the music fill the chat box before class starts. I stop the music, turn on my camera and wait for them to turn on cameras. Most classes feature guest speakers to dive deeper into some aspect of Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS). My comments and assignments tie it all together.

Through a seroes pf assignments, they explained how they got to FCS and shared academic, professional and personal goals. A photo-based assignment gave me a glimpse of life outside of class with students engaging in activities ranging from sleeping, cooking and eating out to working out and yoga. Time-use logs for three different days were also required.

From the start, they gave me tons of positive feedback and support via the chat box, comments during class, and email. They laughed at my jokes and typed often hilarious messages into the chat box. Early on, a few declared me the best professor ever and thereafter called me King.

They talked on Groupme and Snapchat about the way my forehead fills the screen when I lean in to read messages and enjoyed waiting for my reaction. They even invited me to join their virtual groups, but I politely declined. An old dude and a bunch of cute little coeds seemed likely to attract the attention of law enforcement.

For the final project, students reflected on what they’d learned and wanted to remember. Time management, mindfulness (especially self care) and goal-setting were often mentioned. Not having tests was a huge hit too and smarter than I knew. Reflections revealed far more about how students processed information than test grades ever could.

Many added thank yous and other comments to the final assignment. The music was a big hit — I ended up sharing a link to the playlist. Reading about how much they enjoyed and looked forward to the class was very gratifying. I might have shed a tear or two.

I put together a special playlist for the last class — “Someday, We’ll Be Together,” “To Sir, With Love,” “Teach Your Children Well” and others. Called myself being clever, but it backfired big time. The last song to play before class, “When Will I See You Again?,” got me all choked up.

Took a minute, but I finally pulled myself together enough to start class. My last lecture revolved around not wanting to teach online at first, my concerns about connecting with students via Zoom, and that — because of their energy and enthusiasm — my fears turned out to be unwarranted. I got through it. Avoided ugly crying but did choke up like five or six times.

Dry-eyed, I wrapped up with my sage advice and best wishes for the future. The dam broke as they signed off. I lost count of the “I love you” comments. A group of maybe 18 refused to leave. One suggested we hangout and chat for the remaining 20 minutes of class. So we did.

It’s mid-term week for my other class. They have my undivided attention until I give my last, last lecture in early December. One thing for sure, I won’t be playing any sentimental music before class.