Last day of teaching

betty ming liu Relationships, Writing how-to's 17 Comments

Well, it finally happened. This morning was the last day of the semester for my NYU journalism class. Now that it’s over, I am out of the teaching business. Starting Jan. 1, I’m back to full-time reporting. So the goodbyes today with my students were extra bittersweet.

And I wasn’t the only one who left NYU today. Our intensive, four-credit “Food Writing” course consisted of 11 seniors. Nearly half of them are winter college graduates, which means this was their last semester. The rest of them will put on their caps and gowns in May. For all of us, the future beyond NYU is exciting and scary!

We spent our final four-hours in wrap-up mode. Not easy since my poor students were exhausted. Most of them were operating on very little sleep because they were up working on their 3,000-word final stories. In addition to the written assignment, they had to make 10-minute oral presentations based on their pieces.

They gave me homework too. My classes always instigate last-day parties. But these were seniors who were thinking big and they suggested…a champagne brunch. Now that’s the spirit! Besides, this is NYU, which means everyone has expensive tastes. And personally, I felt they deserved the treat because they pushed themselves pretty hard for me.

I brought in two bottles of champagne and orange juice for mimosas. The menu also included fresh bagels with cream cheese, lox, capers and tomatoes. One of the students baked a delicious pumpkin bread.

At one point, a few of the students revealed that they were up at 3 a.m. chatting on Facebook to keep each other going. Translation: They were up all night complaining about my class. After sharing this interesting tidbit, they let me peek into their Facebook so that I could see exactly what they said.

What a special gift! Hmmm, at last — I was a fly on the wall. They logged 38 (!) comments in a very funny, profane conversation that had me rolling:

I've blocked out their names to protect the guilty. It was fascinating to track their discussion on journalism stuff. In terms of shop talk, they advised each other on AP Style, nut grafs & leads.

When class ended, I gave out a lot of hugs. Some of them came back for more than one hug and that made me want to cry. I hope I wasn’t acting too emotional but I kept thinking that my teaching career started seven years ago in an NYU classroom. How fitting that it would end today in another NYU classroom.

And now, we’re all moving on…


At the journalism building, there’s a security guard who would be there whenever I hauled my class out on field trips. Sometimes we’d chat and he’d ask, “Where are you taking your ducklings today?”

Oh, sad! No more classes.

No more ducklings.

But at least some of them will still be bird enough to tweet. After our goodbyes, one of my now-former students reappeared. Tweets are public but I decided to block out her name just to be consistent in how I treat students in this post. :)

I also felt like doodling over her profile photo; a little online graffiti never hurt anyone:

It's so nice when students send me shout-outs on Twitter.

Big hug to all of my students through all the years at all the schools. Your wisdom, energy and generosity have kept me young.  xoxox



Comments 17

  1. Post

    even though everyone says that i’ll get back to teaching at some point, i can’t see how that would work right now. maybe i’m just too melodramatic in this post. but that was the moment. after i submit final grades for the fall semester’s classes, it’ll really be over. well, the good news is that all of us are done with homework. no more homework, yaaaayyy!

  2. You are an amazing teacher. I am going to miss you like crazy during the summer hyperlocal madness…Enjoy this new road in life. This is a big loss for NYU, but a tremendous gain for Westchester readers. Have fun!

  3. You, along with my Italian teacher in high school, will always be my favorite teacher, Betty! Are you going to keep blogging, or are you going to be too busy blogging for Westchester readers? I want to continue following you because even if you’re not in the classroom, I continue to learn so much from you. <3

  4. You are an amazing teacher and mentor and future students will not know what they are missing. You and your class prepared me for the “real world” of writing and reporting more than any other teacher. Congratulations and keep us posted on journey ahead!

  5. Betty, thanks for a lovely and heartfelt post about what must be a very bittersweet moment. Obviously there’s a lot of mutual support between you and your (exhausted) students, and that’s a beautiful thing. On to your next adventure!

  6. Ah, Betty! It’s a year for big changes… NYU will certainly miss you. You shaped my journalism experience, and I’m sure many other students feel the same way. Thanks for giving so much of yourself to your “ducklings”… keep us updated on your new, fast-paced life!

  7. Betty, I haven’t been in your classroom for years, so I already miss you. This just makes me miss you more :(
    All my self-centeredness aside, I’m excited for your new opportunity:)

  8. Post

    i was offline all-day yesterday, running around like a nut job. how nice to show up now and find all your good wishes. thank you! i’m so glad that you’re all in my life.

    and i’m so glad to be living in these 21st century times when social media offers ways way to stay connected. having said that, the answer is yes, laura, i plan to keep this blog going.

    but the blog has always evolved with me and that means there will be things happening here. what that means, though, who knows! i guess we’ll just have to go on the ride and find out. :)

  9. Betty, you are amazing!

    Your post is so timely for me. As you know, I am starting a new chapter too and your positive outlook on things will definitely help me look positively towards the future.

    By the way, your students are indeed lucky to have had you as their professor.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Post

      aw, june — thanks! and you’re doing more than a new chapter…honey, you are starting a NEW BOOK. i mean, leaving a job you’ve had for decades???

      i’m glad this post vibes with you. makes me feel less self-conscious about being so sentimental. by the way, if you liked this post, come back next week for my “how-to tuesday” write-up. i’ve decided on the topic. it’ll be about some super-exciting, practical, life-changing moves that i’m making right now. i think that topic-wise, the material might be super-helpful to those of us who are in transition. i might even manage to make you laugh in the process.

  10. Betty, I’m so glad to have been able to take two of your journalism classes. You were one of my favorite professors and I always looked forward to our classes, even though they were 4 hours long! I’m sure this new gig will be great and I can’t wait to read your new stories.

    1. Post

      chris — i’m really touched to hear that i am one of your favorite profs. you’re gonna make me cry. and guess what — i always looked forward to seeing you too. what would we have done without your good humor, smart reporting insights and endless sandra lee video trivia? thanks for staying with me on this blog. you’re going onto an exciting new world too. i hope you’ll keep on sharing your stories with me. xoxo.

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