Happy New Year!
Early January is always a bit odd for students – it’s technically the new calendar year, but for those of us who live by the academic calendar, we still have until January 17 to close the second quarter and therefore the first semester. So we are no longer in medias res; we are headed toward what many students perceive as the “end” of things.
But as I prefer to think of it, the end of the first semester is an end and a beginning and a middle (of course, as my husband would say, I would always prefer to make things more complicated.) For those students who take semester length courses as majors (mainly our upper class students whose elective courses are timed as most college courses are), indeed it is now the time for closing assessments, final oral projects, exams, papers, labs. But for most students their yearlong courses are simply at a mid-year assessment point: how am I doing at this point in the year? Do I have a superior performance in this course? Am I doing very well? Am I doing the things I need to do at this point in the year? What changes should I make for the second semester? Teacher comments and grades will help answer these questions, but I suspect most students can predict exactly how they are doing in their classes even if they say (when you ask) they don’t know.
Semester grades do indeed go on the transcript, as we are all well aware. This fact creates much stress. And the fact is that stress, pride, excitement, relief, anger, resentment, and resignation – whatever the emotional response – may be understandable and even appropriate reactions to these grades, but these responses are not the only or even the most helpful sustained (or changed!) approach to one’s courses in school. In other words, cry and cheer and worry, but focus (yes) on the feedback. The mindset is a growth mindset. New goals can be set. I am still alive and must now interpret my reality and own it.
This year, as many of you know already from coffee conversations, our advisors will present a clear, goal-oriented comment for their advisees as part of the close of semester report. These comments, we hope, will provide fruitful talking points at home or as part of any conversations you may have with Teachers or Advisors in the coming weeks. Next year, these goal comments will come, as I have said, twice a year.
One more thing about this time of year: you students may indeed have close of quarter or semester (or, again, a course) assessment. At King, we assess in many and varied ways, so your child may not have a “traditional” exam at this point in the year. She or he may have a variety of projects – or even just a regular unit assessment as we close the semester. Ask your son or daughter what’s coming up…and as always, do not hesitate to call with questions.
So … Happy New Year. Happy Middle. Almost Happy Beginning of second semester.