Endings are Hard

Over my teaching career, one of the parts of lesson planning that I’ve consistently struggled with is closure. While it primarily serves to end the lesson, it also should help students organize the lesson’s concepts in some meaningful way. Done well, a lesson’s closure can act as a bridge to the next day’s lesson and provide critical information to the teacher about what students have learned.

Over 28 years of teaching, I have consistently struggled with planning closures. Sure, I can come up with great lessons that incorporate all sorts of active learning strategies that engage my students. I can foster rich discussions that get students to wrestle with difficult concepts. But, ending the lesson? Not so much.

I’m learning that this isn’t just a lesson planning problem for me but permeates to other areas of my life. Take my writing. I can easily come up with topics for blog posts or articles. I’ll jot down a few ideas in an outline and then write. When I come to the ending, however, I draw a blank. Sometimes when I reread an old blog post, I’ll look at the ending and just wonder what I was thinking. Often, I feel like the post just ends. No summary. No closure. No conclusion. The post just ends. And I’ve come to realize something really important.

Endings are hard.

My difficulty with endings is also true with my professional life. Over my teaching career, I’ve resigned from two teaching positions. The first time, I resigned to move across the state with my wife-to-be. We were hoping to find an area where we could both find positions in schools and we made the decision in the middle of summer. There was little fanfare. I submitted a letter to the district office and cleaned out my classroom.

My second resignation came before accepting my current university position. I knew I was leaving before the school year ended. I quietly finished up the year and submitted my letter of resignation days after the last day of school. In hindsight, I know it was the wrong way to handle the situation. While I wanted to avoid any emotional gathering, I didn’t give my colleagues the chance to say goodbye. Again, I just submitted a letter and emptied my classroom.

Endings are hard.

I wish I could say I learned my lesson after these resignations. But I didn’t. Two weeks ago, I stepped down as the director of our university’s teaching and learning center. I’ve held the role for the last seven years and I loved the job. It was a real honor to serve in the position and to get to work with so many awesome colleagues. While my role will change next year, I’m excited to still be working at an institution I love.

My decision to step down from the director position came after a lot of personal deliberation and soul searching. Reflecting on my tenure as the director, I was proud of the things I helped to accomplish across campus, but I also realized that it was probably time to let some new leaders step up and take the center in new directions.

But true to form, I quietly submitted a letter to the administration. There was no fanfare and I didn’t communicate my decision widely to my colleagues. File it once more under the “endings are hard” category.

It was mistake. Rumors spread. Feelings were hurt. After all of my hard work over the last seven years, I didn’t honor my colleagues by communicating with them. While I sent a belated email to faculty last week, I know that more than a few colleagues are upset with how I handled things.

Endings are hard.

So, here we are at the end of this post and I need to wrap things up. I know there are some readers who follow my blog pretty regularly and some who subscribe to my posts. At some point, this blog will come to an end. Today is not that day. I promise that when I eventually stop writing this blog, I will do a better job of honoring the ending.

Because endings are hard enough without honoring them.

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