Summer is fast approaching and another school year is coming to a close. What’s been on my mind for these last few weeks is how to say goodbye. While some children will be back next year, others are going off to new schools, “big schools”. I am sad to see them go, some of these children have been in my class for 2 years and it feels like the end of an era, albeit a short one. And while I can say that goodbye will feel bittersweet, I know my students are beginning to grapple with a whole spectrum of emotions.
For the last month my class has been discussing different emotions. Part of my hope, in planning this curriculum, was that by learning about feelings we would be better prepared to express how we are feeling about the end of our year together. Mixed feelings are always difficult to express and many of my students, especially those leaving, are still unsure of how they feel.
So with 2 weeks left in the school year I am spending most of my time thinking about how any of us, children and adults alike, can truly prepare for big transitions in our lives. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far.
1. Let children express themselves however they are inclined. Some children will want to draw or paint their feelings, others feel comfortable journaling their thoughts with the help of a teacher or parent and yet others just want to sit and talk. However they feel comfortable, be there to help them get their feelings out.
2. Keep an eye out for feelings coming out in other ways. One of my students has been feeling a bit anxious and sad about his upcoming transition to a new school. However, for weeks he was expressing this by acting particularly clownish and choosing to say the opposite of any feeling he was experiencing (ex: saying he doesn’t want to do something when he does & vice verse) Knowing this child well, were able to determine that acting silly was his way to show that he was experiencing anxiety. My colleagues and I decided to begin talking more with him about the upcoming changes and eventually he was able to express how sad and scared he was and that he doesn’t want to leave our school. Now that it’s out in the open we can help him work through these feelings.
3. Model your feelings. Children look to us as guides and as teachers we take this role seriously, for we know our behavior is likely to be copied. The same understanding should be applied to emotions. Tell your child how you feel and why. This will show them it is okay to feel “negative” emotions and will show them how you work though these difficult times. I let my students know I am sad that they will be leaving but I am also thankful for the time we still have together. I tell them that I have many feelings about it because I am really excited for them to go to a new school and hear all about it and I am happy to know that we will always be friends and that they can always come visit me whenever they like.
Saying goodbye is hard, but leaving preschool is just one of many transitions we must all go thought in our lives. As long as we provide our kids with loving support, we will all get through it just fine….Okay maybe with a few tears on my part!