Saying goodbye is the hardest thing to do when you are a teacher. Many of my students have been with me for years, some I have even watched grow in utero, held as babies, watched them as babies at the preschools monthly date night for parents, and I finally get them as students when they start talking and walking. Some of these students truly are my babies.
Many families have multiple children who go through my program. No matter how long they have been with me, it is extremely devastating to let them go. When they graduate and move on to elementary school, I feel a sense of loss, but I am so proud of them and have had time to grieve their loss because I know their graduation is coming.
However, it is a different story when a parent walks in and they are moving to take a new job, or for me, around one of the largest military bases, they have been given orders. These are the losses that twist my gut, the ones I am unprepared for.
I spend a lot of time getting to know not just the children in my classes but their families as well. This is what is taught of us to do, creating a relationship with families is good practice. Your college classes have told you this, the trainings you attend have taught you this, and you experience has taught you, this is the way to be a better teacher to have the best program. You can understand your students and their needs better when you know more about them and their families.
But in doing this the loss is harder…. Here are a few things I try to do when saying goodbye.
On the child’s last day I like to have them stay after class a little. We wait for everyone else to leave and then we get a proper goodbye. It is not rushed, we can speak freely, and as we cry we can do It without a classroom full of other children and parents picking up their children.
This is also a great time to take pictures! I also like to spend my last class with the child taking a few photos with them. These photos will bring a smile to my face for years to come. I also like to send them off in an email or text a few weeks after the family has moved. Just to say hi and check in and make sure everyone is settling in well. I don’t send regular emails and text, but I do continue to check in with them as months pass.
We also make sure to use social media to connect. This gives me a way to see pictures and get updates as the children grow. Before I have my part time preschool, I had a home daycare and this year one of my daycare kids graduates from high school! I don’t post a lot on Facebook personally, but I am so grateful for my past families that due, so that my feed is full of all my babies and their accomplishments!
Another thing you can do, is gift the child a book with a special note written on the inside for them.
Then the last thing you need to do is plan some “Me” time, give your self some time at the end of your day to reflect on your memories with the child. Take a bath, have a glass of wine, paint your toes, put on a facial mask. Give yourself some love!
Current Doctoral Student.Masters in Early Childhood Studies and Bachelors in Child Development. 15 years in the ECE profession.