Zee End of the Semester, the Start of Zinnia Season

My students filed out of the computer lab yesterday, after fourteen weeks of meeting twice a week to discuss all things English 101. One said, “Carey. Thank you,” as he walked out the door. I interpreted his intention to make sure I heard him as a good sign, a positive evaluation. Others said, see ya, bye, have a good summer. Others said nothing and left like it was an ordinary day. A few lingered with questions. When they were all gone, I sat on one of the rolling chairs and enjoyed the quiet. I still have work to do to finalize grades, but knowing the work with students is done, it feels good to take a minute.

I thought about the letter Z. How Z is the end of the A-to-Z Challenge. And how I had two big endings in one day. I brainstormed a few Z words. There’s Zizzer Zasser Zuz, the character in Dr. Suess’ ABC Book. There are zinnias, my favorite flower I grow every summer. There is the zygote, the one cell organism at the end of the alphabet that represents how we all begin. But those words, legitimate Z words, aren’t inspiring me like the concept of an end.

I like starting semesters. It is a time of meeting students and introducing them to the fun they will have writing and reading essays. (Students tolerate my enthusiasm for my subject, even if they don’t share it.)

I like endings, too. I show students the course outcomes on the last day the same way I do on the first, but on the last day, I ask, “Did you get there? Did we get there?” They are assigned a reflection paper to answer those questions.

I don’t get all sentimental in front of my students. I don’t want to make any of us uncomfortable. I am not a summer camp counselor who has students hold hands and sing a goodbye song. For one, goodbye songs invoke unnecessary crying on my behalf–oh, it’s so sad we finished our four essays and reading assignments, oh my–when the reality is a composition class is a required course, a stop on the way to graduation, and like summer camp, we meet, then part and move on.

Here was my farewell speech: “I’ve enjoyed meeting you all, and writing you. I married a local guy, and we aren’t moving anytime soon, so if you see me around town, be sure to come up and say hi.”

Yeah, I know. Real emotional stuff, right?

I assume most of my students walked down the stairs and out into the spring weather relieved to have class finished, and yet, I hope in the mix of assignments and class lectures and writing prompts something made sense, something stuck.

Zinnia flowers are my favorite and they love growing in my front yard.

Zinnias are one of the few flowers who love growing in the heat of my front yard.

Outside, the campus looked full. Where have these people been all winter? Students had emerged from the indoors wearing shorts and sunglasses and flip flops. I braked in the road as two young women rolled into the crosswalk on their roller blades. I drove on, past the sand volleyball courts crowded with students gathered to play and watch. All around, people moved. Some had places to be, some sat on the grass for well-deserved sun. Spring begins, finally, in the mix of finals and the end of another school year.

These markers of time–an alphabet challenge, college semesters, annual seasons–help us get things done. Writing thirty posts in thirty days, grading student essays, planting zinnia flowers in my garden wouldn’t happen in a timely manner without the push of beginnings and endings. We get more done with deadlines–and the reward, when we ask, “Did we get there?” and we answer with a big, fat enthusiastic, “Yes. Yes we did.”

Inspired by the letter Z in the A to Z Challenge. Shew!

If you’re feeling especially proud of something you accomplished recently, scroll down and comment below. Or just say hello. Thanks for reading.

3 thoughts on “Zee End of the Semester, the Start of Zinnia Season

  1. I don’t have zinnias here. I may use them at some point, but I never grew them in my other Indiana garden either. However, in Georgia, where nearly nothing grew for me, my zinnias flourished. My zinnias were biennial there, and whoa did they bring the butterflies! 😀 It was impressive!
    I planted Nicotinia and begonias as annuals today. I added a bit of lobelia and spikes, but the star today was an Asiatic lily. RED 😛 I can’t wait til she blooms!


  2. It must be quite rewarding to get the end of a semester and see the progress in your students – and that must make that form of end a real enjoyment.
    I had a chuckle when you mentioned how you tell your students about the fun they’ll have reading and writing essays – I remember when teachers had that kind of attitude at school we’d groan because any kind of essay or test was a hardship. That said teachers who are enthusiastic about their subjects have done more for me than any others – I went from hating history to loving it because I had a teacher who was so enthusiastic about his subject 🙂


    • My sixth grade piano teacher showed me how to love music and and how to be an interpreter of songs…she just loved her subject. And then she moved. And no one else compared. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, for reading. You make a good point about the potential we all have to spread some enthusiasm.


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