How to Say Goodbye

Erin Lark

It never fails.  The last day of school I make it through the yearbook signing, the cleaning of a room that holds so many wonderful memories, and the all-school assembly to recap the year.  I chat with students about their future plans, walk them through strategies to make new friends (just in case), and promote the wearing of sunscreen.  We say our last Pledge, drink our last cup of tea, and complete the 180th day.  Then, just as we are following the crowds out of the building, liberally sharing high-fives and cheer, it happens:

“You are my favorite teacher and I wouldn’t be where I am without you.” Cue teacher tears.

I admit to my personal sappiness level while readily acknowledging that not all of us wear sunglasses out to wave off the buses.  However, almost all educators are engaged in a cyclical experience of wrapping up one year, pausing to regenerate to some degree, and welcoming a new beginning in the fall.  Whether we participate in various traditions or unconscious patterns of closure, a few tested steps can ease the transition.

Student's Note

Keep things.

Cards and letters from students and staff go into one small storage container I keep for those days when a kind word from the past can be the extra lift you need in the future present.   Though I rarely teach the same things the same way from year to year, I also save a few student work samples for inspiration. Next, it’s time to dust, stack, and store any manipulatives and texts you’ll need again, repairing damages and noting replacements.  I also take a few photos of the room prior to any necessary deconstruction so I can remember which environmental aspects were supportive of our work. While not every item in my classroom sparks joy, I want to be certain I keep what works for my and student learning.

Throw others away.

I like to pack up a room in reverse order, starting with the items I used the least (or not at all) and finishing with my daily essentials in clearly labeled boxes.  Before I started this annual process, I amassed a cache of years-old lessons my teaching abilities had long since eclipsed, professional development handouts no longer relevant to district initiatives, and outdated science texts which all went into recycling.  Now, I filter through both digital and paper materials from the year and now have a single manilla folder, a digital notebook, and the ability to decide what I will actually use going forward.  

Set yourself up.

We all know, have been, or are those teachers who struggle with vacating our jobs.  Whether we want to plan ahead for next year, are worried we will forget the good ideas generated, or remember all too well the whirlwind of September, a little footwork in June paves the way for relaxation.  You don’t need to wait to purchase your teacher planner, schedule a few meetings, or draft a unit plan. Creating a digital curriculum map with a loose learning outline and including places to insert any resources you don’t want to forget or those that cross your proverbial summer desk will help support your August self.  This is also a great place to note assessments that truly enabled student mastery, essential standards, and complete any time-bound supply ordering. In short, make it easier for yourself to let go for a while.

Put your work down.

Some of us lock the classroom door and do not set foot on campus until the August inservice.  Others arrive at the same inservice feeling anything but refreshed, having spent vacation largely in the building.  Most of us are likely somewhere in-between, able to recall a few great summer times and yet worried we didn’t relax enough.   In our hyperstimulated, digital age I challenge that all of us can get better at putting the “break” back in summer.  Here are a few options my teacher friends could use:

    • Turn off your phone.  Off, off. For a while.  Leave it at home while you go out and summer.


    • Plan B: if the above suggestion is just too much, try turning off cellular data to limit useability, temporarily deleting social media apps, or other ways to wean yourself away from a habitually networked status.


    • Do you make lists of how to spend your summer?  Don’t do that for a couple of weekends. Don’t make lists?  Try making one. Essentially, do the opposite of your norm.


    • I sat in a staff community circle in March when the majority of members said they wanted to take up yoga yet none had done so by June.  Pause in reading this post to sign up for that class. Go.


  • Read fiction.

Get jazzed again.

If you are like many of us, round about the first or second week of August you get an itch.  Sometimes we can ignore it for a while longer, but we all eventually anticipate the year ahead and all that accompanies the reality of a new group of students who deserve our best selves.  However you spent your summer, treat it’s culmination as a transition to be celebrated. Join in education Twitter chats to learn the new school year’s tips and tricks, research the latest in college and career readiness trends, and review assessment data.  Plan a barbeque with your coworkers to catch up, purchase some new pens, and crank up the tunes while you unpack, arrange, and ready your room, all the while remembering why you love this job and what comes with a new year.    

Then just maybe, if you get a little nostalgic like I do, pull out your box of cards, wish your former students the best of luck in their new digs, and make room for the wonderful new memories to come.

How do you say goodbye for the year and then hello again?

  • Teacher Leadership
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The opinions expressed by the CORElaborate Bloggers, guest bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Puget Sound Educational Service District (PSESD), Ready Washington or any employee thereof. PSESD is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the Washington State Teacher Leader or Guest Bloggers.

Erin Lark Board

Secondary Science Teacher at Vancouver Public Schools

Erin is an NBCT teaching secondary science in Vancouver, WA. Currently at iTech Preparatory, her work centers on interdisciplinary PBL and mindfulness.Her dissertation focused on youth innovation skills and interests in STEM content and careers, and she continues to advocate for young innovators on the daily as a co-founder of WayfinderWA.