Honoring Relationships At Times of Transition
“We’ll always have our memories, even when this year is through, you’ve become a special part of me, and our class is now a part of you.
– From A Letter From Your Teacher On the Last Day of School, by Shannon Olsen
ONCE UPON A TIME, a mom overheard her little boy talking about his former teacher while falling asleep. He whispered her name over and over again. Her son had just changed classrooms, and though happy in his new setting, she knew he was missing daily contact with that important person in his life.
Luckily, Mom was tuned in to his feelings and made a point of talking about the special attributes of his old teacher, as well as exciting aspects of his new class. This true, and actually happy, story illustrates the importance of thinking about closure when a child leaves an important relationship and moves on to fresh experiences.
It’s a help for children to talk about their relationship before parting with a beloved teacher and to be reassured that they will be able to connect with them even when they are moving to a new school. Children transitioning to new classrooms at the same school can also experience the move as a huge change and are aided by sharing feelings about their current class and underlining the importance of the relationship – “Your teacher has been so kind, and you’ve learned so much about nature from him” – helps the child develop a sense of their own life story.
My fifth grade teacher made a huge difference in my life, and even now, when I think of the specific ways she encouraged me, it gives me a sense of why I pursued certain subjects. If parents take the time to note the unique attributes of the relationship as the child is taking leave, it plants a seed for the child to nurture in the future. It’s normal for teachers, and parents, to have deep feelings about letting go of relationships as they are right now. However, children live in the moment and may not be aware of the loss of their teachers until they move to the next class.
Here are some ideas for helping your child take all the learning and love of his last experience with him:
Help your child write (or dictate) a note to the teacher.
Keep your feelings separate from your child’s. Avoid burdening your child with your grief about leaving a particular teacher. Help your child to create or pick out a gift.
Make a time for your child to say good-bye. Pick a moment at the school party or on the last day to say good-bye and express feelings of missing.
Put up a picture of your child’s teacher at home. Keeping it up for a time will allow your child to keep her image in his heart and to solidify the memories.