As our final week of school winds down, the classroom feels very charged. We’ve been using our visual calendar to count down the days, replacing the days we’ve been in school with hearts. The wall is now full of hearts where little schoolhouses used to be. A constant reminder of time ticking by.
I try to prepare my class for this every year but always feel I am falling short. I’m torn between avoiding any unnecessary drama and angst of saying goodbye, and the reality of it. It’s so hard to say goodbye to a group of children that you are, in many ways, just beginning to fully understand. Hard to say goodbye to the community you’re finally built. Hard to say goodbye to the little family that has grown together in the confines of the classroom.
I feel so inadequate as a teacher when it comes to this. How do I prepare my class for the inevitable separation without being over sentimental about it? And what kind of solution do I present for coping with saying goodbye. And really, is this more my issue than theirs?! I was lying awake thinking about this one night a couple weeks before school ended.
Typically, I like to wind down the year by giving the kids a forum to reflect. We have fun talking about what they couldn’t do in the early days but have mastered now. I let them look through their journals that they write in weekly to see how their own writing and drawing has evolved. They laugh like old folks looking through a family album! We talk about our favorite moments. We reminisce. We feel good about the things we worked through.
As for the sad part of leaving each other, I just have no good way of addressing it. I decided this year to put it in the hands of the class. We looked at the calendar together and counted down 4 more days of school. There was the usual: “I am sad school is ending”, and “I can’t wait for summer!” and we mused on the wonders of holding two disparate emotions at one time (happy for summer, sad to leave school).
“I’m gonna miss you,” said a little boy to me. “Me too” all chimed in. Here was my opportunity. “It is not fun to have to say goodbye,” I said. “I’m going to miss you all too. You did such a great job this year. But how can we make it feel a little better?”
The little boy said: “I’m going to have everyone over for dinner!” A girl responded dryly: “Well I hope you have a really long table.” Another girl said: “I can bring some chairs if you need them. We have a lot.”
This seemed like a pretty fun solution. We talked about kids getting together at playgrounds outside of school, of new experiences to be had, of new friends yet to be made. I suggested that they had learned all there was to be learned in that classroom and it was good to move on.
And then some little voice suggested a group hug. So we did. Right there in the middle of the classroom. No one got hurt. No one fell down. No one screamed that the hug was too tight. No one pouted that they were being left out. It was just a joyful group hug.
And that is how we said goodbye.