Instruction & Curriculum

Saying ‘See You Later’ to our Kids in 2020: It feels different this Year

We’re about 2 weeks out to the end of the 2019-2020 school year, and the end of the semester feels so different this year. Teachers know the bittersweet moment of saying goodbye to the students that we bonded with throughout the year with, while also anticipating the summer to enjoy time for ourselves & families. For me, this moment of parting with my students will be more difficult, especially my 12th grade students who are graduating and moving on to the next phase of their lives. This is because my students and I have endured this pandemic together – we have seen each other almost every day, we have engaged in discussions about our experiences, we have established some sort of routine that revolves around school and we have been figuring out how to adjust to some of our new changes together.
In  some strange way, we have created a unique connection that I haven’t developed with students prior to this. In the same breath, I haven’t seen my students in person since March, and so the end of the school year – when students come and tell me goodbye, or come to clean out their lockers, collect final grades from me or just have last conversations won’t happen. This has been a tough pill to swallow. Those end-of-the-year rituals have become commonplace for me and have made the experience memorable. Like everyone else, I’ve never been in a situation like this and when I started online teaching, I didn’t even think that I’d end the semester on Zoom. As such, I have begun to reflect on how the end of the semester will feel for me when I no longer have my students and my classes.
As I assign final projects to my students, the clock is ticking and there’s a constant internal reminder that my spring 2020 semester is almost over. I anticipate the split will be harder and it will be more difficult to adapt to the summer vacation. I’m looking ahead to those last few days, and how to structure the end of my year and I definitely want to be intentional with my goodbyes to my students.
So, here are some ideas that I have so far about the end of the semester:
Having a last class verbal reflection with my students in which we discuss how COVID-19 affected our lives, our classroom & school experiences, and how we adjusted to such changes. Then, discuss our plans for our indoor summers, and staying in touch if necessary.
Having one-on-one discussions (my class sizes are small enough to permit this) with each student to check in with their mental health and discuss how I can support them over the summer, and expressing to them verbally how important their contributions were over the semester.
Sending out personalized thank you notes to each student detailing some of their highlights over the semester and thanking them for doing their best given the circumstances.
Sending out a general message to both students & parents about our progress throughout the semester, and for the support during this time. I’d be specific about the ways in which we all worked together throughout this pandemic to ensure the wellbeing of the students.
I might even make a video of myself to my students where I perform poetry about this unprecedented time and thank them for their tenacity, and determination even when it was very difficult to find motivation.
Overall, I want to echo the sentiment to my students that we were able to get through these past 3 months together and recognize that my students rose to the occasion, despite everything. My typical thank-yous won’t suffice for this semester as this semester just wasn’t typical.
I know that other teachers may be feeling the same way – feeling concerned about the end of the semester and thinking about how their students may fare over the summer. It’s such a valid concern. Another sentiment that I’ll be echoing is that I’ll be available to parents & students over e-mail for additional support over the summer. For those teachers who haven’t started thinking about how to say see you later to your students, maybe now is a good time to start reflecting on this.
For those teachers who have thought about the end of the semester, what are some ideas that you may have to conclude your semester?

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