Their heads are down, knuckles white and gripping pencils too tightly. Necks bent, foreheads almost to the desk as they think and write and erase. I watch them and think, “I made this happen.”
I’ve taught these kids, these oh-so-almost adults, for a mere three months. Yet we know each other so well. They get my jokes, or just laugh at my delivery. They laugh at my facial expressions. They eat cookies that I bake for them. They study SO hard and for so long, together and apart, day after hour after week. One student was asleep on the couch in our study room on Monday morning–he’d spent the whole night at the books. Finals week does this. It makes them stay awake and wrench their brains into pretzels.
Some are sophomores. Some are seniors. All need organic chemistry to move on in their academic pursuits. I am the gatekeeper. They must leap very high to make it past me. I want to lace my fingers and invite them to step into my hands so I can boost them over the hurdle. But I have to let them do it so they will each own their success. And they did succeed. Beyond my hopes. They did it. I just cleared the path.
Tomorrow my last group will take their last exam at the crack-o-dawn and scoot out triumphant and free for a month of well-earned rest. Few will even glance back over their shoulder, they will be so thrilled to escape from college, from the dorm, from their books. And, yes, from me.
But they are coming back. Many voluntarily. They are coming back in the spring to take the second half of this incredibly challenging course.
Today, I got a hug. I’ll be back, too.