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Saying goodbye to a great class with a letter

May 25, 2017

Every year, I read Sam Shah’s incredible senior letters (2010, 2012, 2013, 2016) with a sense of awe and inspiration. I personally find these letters to be illuminating, and though I’ve never met Sam or his students, I imagine Sam’s words must have a powerful effect on his students. It’s been a long time since I’ve taught seniors, but every time I read one of these letters, I tell myself that I must write one when I do. And so, when I taught a 2nd-year physics course to 15 seniors this year using Matter and Interactions, I knew what I would do.

Sam says he doesn’t write these letters for his students, and after writing mine, and reading it to my students, with more than one tear forming in the corner of my eye, I think I understand. Writing this letter crystallized so much of my thoughts about what I want the big takeaways of my class to be, and what I think I really mean when I tell students physics changes the way you see the world. But more than just helping me to crystallize my thoughts, writing this letter and reading it to my students left we with a feeling of tremendous closure and happiness as I looked up and saw my students ready to use their physics goggles to change the world.

So if you’ve got a class of seniors, or maybe just a class of students that’s done something especially memorable, take a page from Sam’s book, write it down, and share it with your students. You’ll be glad you did.

Of course, since I’m a terrible procrastinator who struggles with concision, my letter spills over 4 pages and misses much of the beauty of Sam’s letters (though I did borrow a wonderful Feynman quote I discovered from him). Still, it’s one of the best things I did this year, and I’ll remember those last moments of class for a long time to come.

AS Physics Senior Letter 2017

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