Friday, May 16, 2008

Missing My Muppets

Today marks the last day of school for the graduating seniors of 2008. Aside from a few final exams next week, most of which have been exempted, today is the last day of class instruction that has been 12+ years in the making. Today's lesson in AB Calculus: "Muppets in Space" (I figured they needed a break from all the "Guitar Hero" that's been going on.

Most senior students are enjoying their imminently forthcoming freedom, sharing memory books, swapping photos, ruminating and reminiscing on their school days, and fighting back the bitter tears that comes with the grim realization that I won't be their teacher any more. It's a bit painful for me today, too, and not just because I've picked my fingernails too short, but for many of these seniors, I've been grading their papers and instructing them for three years. It seems like only yesterday I was teaching them basic trigonometry. I blink once, and they suddenly have completed the AP Calculus exam.

All that's left for me to do is to squeeze one last assignment out of them, a letter to next year's incoming calculus students sharing their advice, hints, and tips. As of right now, I received less than half the letters. The ones that come in next week, late, will probably suggest to "avoid procrastination," and "get all worked turned in on time." Oh the irony! But it's forgivable, I suppose, since, as one letter stated, "Korpi is very fair and reasonable," which is teen talk for "Korpi is a pushover."

As I look out among the diminished class of seniors (many are out again today, as they have been the last two weeks, for their last AP exam), I look at each student and briefly ponder where their road will lead and how the experiences we've shared together will help them. I question whether I've done enough for them individually. I think about which Muppet each of them would be if Jim Henson ever made a "Muppets on Calculus" movie. I think about how creepy they would think it would be if they new I was playing their academic story in my head while they were engrossed in a great Muppet caper. There are also some students that I barely even recognize, as they are from another class that's watching an inferior movie. For them, I just ponder what "might have been," had they been as unafraid of calculus as they are of Kermit the Frog.

I started thinking mathematically, how the years I've spent with these students is like the Squeeze Theorem in Calculus. Before and after "Mr. Korpi's" math class, students' lives, bounded by the natural laws of the Universe, diverged. During Calculus class, however, all of our lives converged in one room for a common purpose. Now that it's over, it's time for their lives, being the continuous functions that they are, to emerge on the other side and take off, no longer squeezed through that shared single point in time.

As they leave today, I say goodbye just as I always do, reminding them to "have a great weekend", to "be safe", and to "do your homework." Today I add, "don't forget to turn in your letter. Be sure to say how 'fair and reasonable' I am."

By the way, those Muppets are much funnier than I remember when I was younger. I highly suggest checking out the "Muppets in Space" if you ever find yourself in a high school classroom at the end of the year with a bunch of seniors. It's well worth having on in the background. It will keep everyone in the room entertained, giving you ample opportunity to observe them.


kwkorpi said...

Miss Piggy very beautiful and can sing very well. I also like Kermit the Frog, because he's cute and sings funny.

Anonymous said...

The Great Muppet Caper will be the feature presentation next week. lc

Anonymous said...

There is yet another "point in time" coming in the future when you are teaching the children of today's students. When those students tell you that their parents recommended your class because you are "fair and reasonable" you will have come full circle.

Anonymous said...

hey korps... just wanted to tell you that we were all thinking about you at the heroes dessert the other night. you, my friend, are awesome and you were definitely missed. i assumed that you were already taken as a hero seeing as i turned my paper work in very very late. anyway, thanks for everything you've done for us over the past few years, we all appreciate you tons!