Saying Goodbye

We answer middle school teachers' questions about the best ways to wrap up the year

During the day, I teach up to 150 students. I'd like to say a special goodbye to every child that I've gotten to know, but how can I make it personal?
Take candid pictures of your students prior to the last day of school. Combine the photos with a song that relates to an activity or lesson you have taught during the year to create a wonderful slide show, PowerPoint, or presentation for the interactive whiteboard. The students will enjoy seeing themselves on the screen and you will send the students off with one last memory-and have a great set of mementos for yourself from the year.

Don't have time to make a PowerPoint or whiteboard presentation? Write a simple thank-you note on a posterboard. Use quotes, comments, and memories of activities that happened during the past year. By including important pieces of the school year, you are giving your students a gift, letting them know that you are thankful they came to your class throughout the year. During middle school, students often do not realize how important they are to the classroom, and this is a quick way to make them understand that you are thankful for the opportunity to teach them.
 
I have a student teacher and would like to give her a special gift as she's been such a big part of my classroom this year. How can I involve my students and keep our plans a secret?
Invite students to bring in "teacher" supplies such as sticky notes, red pens, paper clips, staplers, etc. Pick up a few items from your dollar store for students who forget to bring in an item, as well as a storage bucket of some sort. Ask the student teacher to sit at the front of the room and have the students bring up their supplies, filling the basket and sending the student teacher off on a good note.

In addition, take lots of pictures of the student teacher in action, as well as group pictures of the student teacher with the students. Why pictures? This is often the first classroom the student teacher has guided, and offering up memories is important. You get to thank the student teacher for a job well done and she gets to compile images that will help with her teaching portfolio. While you will have an opportunity to say good-bye to the students at the end of the year, as well as the opportunity to see them if they stop by, the likelihood that the student teacher will get a job in your school is slim. The student teacher will not get to see the students grow and change, and photos will allow her to keep the students close a little longer.

School is coming to an end and many students will be purchasing a yearbook, but I have a few students who can't afford it. What can I do?
School yearbooks are often pricey, but you can leave all of your students feeling good by creating memory books. Have each student draw five names from a hat. Use one class period to have the students write a poem (think haiku or name poem) saying something nice about each of the students whose name they drew from the hat. If you have access to computers, have the students add graphic art and use fancy fonts. After you collect them (and check to make sure that the commentary is nice), create a book for each student. Students  are forced to find the positive in others they might not know well, and all students have a "book" that can be signed by their friends to celebrate the end of the year.

Another solution is to bring in some digital cameras (if the school has any) or inexpensive film cameras and have students take pictures of one another. Ask for parent volunteers to develop the film, and allow the students to make their own photo album/yearbooks. Get double or triple copies of the pictures, and give students time to combine their words and photos to create a memory board. Have each student or team of students present the board, sharing memories of the year. Make sure every student is in at least one photo and make sure that they are mentioned in at least one presentation. And remember to make this a fun project so students end the year on a good note.

Say Hello
Welcome next year's group of students with these fresh ideas.

- Post a Sneak Preview.
Even if you don't have your class lists for next year, you can build excitement for what goes on in your classroom by creating a hallway bulletin board before students leave for the summer. Title the bulletin board "In 2012, This Could Be You," and post photographs of some of the exciting things you've done with your students this year, as well as intriguing headlines. When students get their schedule, they will be thrilled to see your name on it!

- Start an E-mail Chain.
If you have your new students' e-mail addresses, send them a message asking a question to spark your discussions next year. For example, "What's the best book you've ever read?" "What's the best activity you've ever done in math class?" Encourage students to "reply all" to the message so that everyone can read and respond to one another's ideas.

- Be Mysterious.
Many teachers like to send welcome letters to new students. Put a twist on that idea by including a mysterious image or object that will pique students' interest in the lessons you have planned. For example, if you will be reading To Kill a Mockingbird you might include images of the objects that Boo Radley leaves for Scout and Jem, with the caption "Riddle: What Do These Items Have in Common?"

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