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Leah Thomas

Near the end of every semester, a gleam enters the eyes of teachers and students. It is a gleam that is both excited and manic, both exhausted and eager. There’s so much to do near the end of any semester, usually far too much to do, with report cards due, performances and concerts, conferences, final projects, and presentations aplenty to tackle. It can be thrilling, knowing the days on a calendar are dwindling. Who wouldn’t covet the sense of accomplishment that comes with the end of a long period of work?

But finality doesn’t always really have a real place in education. Inevitably some presentations or projects don’t pan out, or some conferences go rather poorly, certain tasks don’t get quite finished, and with the last day of school before any break comes an overwhelming niggle in the back of the mind: what didn’t get done? We look out across a sea of empty desks and feel a little dissatisfied.

We are all prone to human error, and confronting this can be daunting. It is in these last few weeks before a break that our tempers tend to snap, that we get teary or feel inclined to lash out at students or coworkers. But it is important to remember that this too is human, and that in that dissatisfaction can be found another lesson.

Learning is not a process that ever ends. This is true for students, but for adults as well. With every failure comes some understanding; with every unchecked box comes the potential to remember to better manage our time or take on less in the future. Teacher burnout is at an all-time high, and that’s understandable. When the light at the end of a tunnel seems so alluring, it can be tempting to vanish into it, to leave the sea of desks behind.

But there’s never a time when learning stops, and what a wonder to return to the darkness willingly to help others get through it again.