We’ve almost made it! The year is winding down, the students have summer fever, and the teachers are scrambling to tie up loose ends before waving goodbye and sending the kids off to the next grade. As a volunteer, you might be reflecting on your impact as a mentor and tutor: Did I really help this child improve academically? Did at least one piece of wisdom I shared actually stick and make a difference in their lives? Well, these are the types of questions educators ask themselves every day. Rest assured, you have made a much larger imprint on their lives than you will ever know…and I know that imprint goes both ways.
As busy as the end of the school year can be, it is no surprise that we often forget to say goodbye in a meaningful way. I don’t mean just saying the words or waving a hand as you’re walking out the door on the last day. I mean saying goodbye in a way that shows the appreciation for the relationship that you have so carefully and intentionally built throughout the year. This is often very challenging, even for adults. I always like to have a conversation with the students a week or so before school ends about the many ways people choose to say goodbye. We create a list together and talk about which ways will make them and the other person feel the best. This helps them think about all of the people they want to say goodbye to and the reasons some people react the way they do. Here is the list I have collected over the years:
1. Read a story together. My favorite end of the year books are: The Invisible String by Patrice Karst and Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss
2. Make a gift. A handmade gift will make a person’s last day of school memorable and let the person feel he did something special for someone he cares about. The possibilities are endless. He might want to draw a picture or make a card. He can use a small paper plate to make a frame for a photo of himself. Children might draw self-portraits on paper Draw a special picture for the person. This will be something they will hold onto for a long time and think of you when they see it.
3. Take a photograph together and send it to them.
4. Spend as much time as possible with them before they leave i.e. eat lunch together, sit next to each other, etc.
5. Cry. This can be happy and sad tears. And that’s okay. Talk with them about the feelings people experience when saying goodbye.
6. Get into a fight with the person you will miss. This often seems easier than actually acknowledging that you will be apart. Some chose this route to avoid feeling sad.
7. Take something that belonged to the person or class (with or without permission). The person wants to have something to remember their time together and may not even realize they are taking something that doesn’t belong to them.
8. Write a poem or letter to the person. Share a favorite moment or appreciations for that person.
9. Exchange contact information – phone number, email, etc.
10. Give lots of hugs!
11. Share all of the things you appreciate about the person by taking a few minutes to tell them in person.
12. Make an Autograph Book. This is a book you can make for the students who didn’t get a yearbook but want to collect the signatures of friends and classmates.
What ways have you used to say goodbye?