June 5, 2017

The Emotional Roller Coaster of an End-of-the-Year Goodbye

For teachers, the end of the school year can bring up a lot of emotions.  The thing about feeling emotions is there is really no right way or wrong way to feel because emotions are a bit out of our control.  As an ode to the end of the school year, I'm dedicating this blog post to breaking down some of the common emotions I have felt in the hopes of getting anyone who is reading this to reflect on the current school year, get in touch with where they're at in saying goodbye to their students, and know that feeling a rainbow of emotions is okay.


Each year, I build a new story through my students and my classroom.  A story that I've poured my heart and soul into from September through June.  Everywhere I look in my classroom, I see a different story.  The anchor charts around the room remind me of all the different topics we've covered and learned about across the year.  The bulletin boards and classroom decor bring me back to those sweaty days in August before students even stepped foot in my classroom when I stressed over the placement of the rugs, the comfy items, and the visual appeal of the colors because I wanted everything to look perfect so that my students felt comfortable and intrigued from the moment they walked in.  Even as I clean out my files (at the request of the tech department) I see Smartboard lesson after Smartboard lesson that I've mentally sweat and toiled over each day.  Because I get a new group of students every year, I think it's only fitting that they get new lessons every day that were designed with their needs as readers and writers in mind.  Seeing these things create sadness because the classroom needs to be torn apart for the summer cleaning crew to do its thing, and the files are no longer relevant.  All of my hard work has served its purpose, and that chapter in my book is now closing.

The real sadness though, like the sadness that tugs so hard on your heart that it brings tears to your eyes comes from thinking about students.  I see the girl that doesn't have enough food at home and relies heavily on school breakfast and lunch every day, I see the boy who has a father who frightens him that he still has to go see every other weekend, and I see the girl who has lost herself this year and taken up the habit of cutting to numb the pain.  When they were at school with me and their other teachers this school year, they were safe, they had food, they had adult support.  I don't know what their summer holds for them now.  I want to stay positive and hope that things in their life will turn around and change, but I know that the reality for some of my students is they will not have a fun and enjoyable summer with their amazing families.  This is by far the hardest burden to bear when saying goodbye as a teacher.


What other profession do you get to have a clear beginning and end every single year?  Many other professions require the day-to-day grind where it is hard to step away, reset, and return fresh and renewed.  One of the greatest blessings of being a teacher is that every year is a chance at a new beginning.  At the end of every school year, I write down 3-4 things that I want to change or do better at the following school year.  At the beginning of the school year, I reread that list and figure out how I'm going to make that happen.  If I have a difficult school year, I know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that my current reality isn't my forever reality.

The end of the year brings to a close the crossing off everything on a checklist that just months, weeks, or even days ago seemed impossible to complete.
-Grade all of the things and submit final grades...check!
-Submit your final SLO and artifact reflection...check!
-Meet with your principal to discuss your SLO, artifacts, and classroom observations...check!
-Dismantle your classroom to get ready for the summer cleaning crew...check!
-Return all materials you've borrowed across the year to the correct places...check!

I could go on and on and on, but the point is that the end of the school year is an absolute whirlwind of things to do, and there is such a satisfying relief when the last day of school hits and that checklist is complete.

To continue with the whole relief thing, this blog post is meant to be completely transparent, and if I am doing so there is relief in saying goodbye, too.  There are moments across the school year where my patience gets tested more than I think others not in the teaching profession can even begin to imagine.  Dealing with 25 middle school students at one time can get trying.  They test limits, they make the same mistakes over and over again (even after they're told a million times), and some can even be extremely disrespectful.  The end of the school year brings with it elevated behaviors, dress code violations galore, a depleted student work ethic, and a classroom that feels more like a sauna than a classroom.  There is some relief in being able to have a retrieve from it.


When I look back to who my students were at the beginning of the year as readers and writers and people and who they are now, it makes me want to do a happy dance.  When you're in the day-to-day, growth can seems slow and at times feel like it's going backwards, but when you're able to take a step back and see growth as a big picture thing, it is so awesome.  Teachers should be excited about this and celebrate the learning journey they've taken their students on across the school year.

Excitement also comes from a sense of freedom to get caught up on all of the things that have fallen into the "I'll do that during the summer" pile.  Summer to me means time with family on Long Lake, getting time to plug back into my other passions (such as blogging and creating resources for TpT), and a time for relaxation and renewal.  That is quite exciting.


No matter how hard I try across the school year, there always seems to be that little wisp of regret that remains as I say goodbye.  My mind flashes back to the student who moved away in the middle of the school year that I never got to say goodbye to and tell how great I thought she was because she was suddenly gone.  I think about the student who didn't improve as much I wanted him to as a reader and writer this year and wonder what it was that I could have done differently to reach him.  I think about the topics that I wanted to cover that I simply did not have time to and wonder if I spent too much time on a unit that wasn't quite as important as what I missed.  As a teacher, I feel like I am making decision after decision after decision all day every day.  Sometimes I choose right, and there are other times where I know I chose wrong.  Regret lingers because of those wrong decisions and because of the mysteries that I didn't quite get around to figuring out.


It's the final emotion I've listed on this post because it is my prayer for any teacher reading this that of all the emotions you feel at the end of the school year, you are overwhelmed with a sense of hope.  Hope that your students have a bright future ahead of them.  Hope that you will reflect on this school year and bring new and exciting changes into your classroom next school year.  Hope that your voice and the lessons you taught your students stuck with them, and that every once in awhile, when they are making a decision, they will remember something you told them and choose the right path.  We are teachers of content, but we are also teachers of life.  Keep the hope that you made a difference this year in the lives of many.  That is, after all, the very best thing about being a teacher.


  1. What a great essay to sum it up. You took me back to the classroom! I love the poster of advice for your students too.

    1. Thanks so much, Sue Alice! I'm glad this post brought you back to that end of the year feeling. I hope you had an awesome first year of retirement!

  2. I really enjoyed this post. It is a really nice summary of what it feels like to end the year. That feeling of regret resonated with me. Part of my excitement in August is that I get another chance to get it right. You nailed it. Thanks.

    1. Hi Jaye!

      I really think as teachers we have to accept that we will always have regret because it is unattainable to get it all "right." You're so right though, going back and getting a fresh start as the beginning of the school year and trying to reflect and improve on regrets from the past school year is a great way to move forward. I hope your school year this year goes well!



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