We finished final exams at DePaul in the second-to-the-last week of November, but thanks to a ridiculous pile-up of work, I didn’t finish grading finals until last week. Anyone who knows me or reads this blog knows that I am not a fan of grading, but I discovered something amazing during my time grading finals: I really missed looking at my students final exam sheets during the pandemic.

For background: I allow students a relatively generous set of notes during the final exam. It’s not open notes, since I think there is value in curating what they bring to exams, but it’s pretty close. In my second-quarter programming classes it can be up to 40 pages of notes. My view on this is that memorizing syntax is pointless and that having examples we’ve done in class can be helpful (and calming) for the students. I also like to view the notes that they use because I find it’s interesting to see what they view as valuable. And this quarter’s students did not disappoint in that regard.

One student demonstrated her incredible organizational skills, providing tabs on her final exam notes to allow easy access:

Another student added some commentary about the subjects in the class:

And a third student, whose facial expressions during class were a source of constant delight for me, took the opportunity to share his feelings with me:

Looking through the note sheets after the final exam reminded me just how much I missed the full interaction with my students that I get through in-person classes. Their final exam notes tell me a story about who they are and how they feel, and I love it.

All of this only made me all the sadder that DePaul will spend (at least) the first two weeks of the quarter online again. I think I spent a good 36 hours being depressed after that announcement earlier this week, and I have my fingers crossed that it’s a momentary thing and not a sign of yet another quarter spent online. I simply miss seeing and being with my students too much to happily head back to remote teaching.