It is hard to say goodbye. Saying goodbye is also healthy and necessary to provide the opportunity for closure for students at the end of the school year. Although it can be painful for both adults and students, healthy goodbyes help transition into the summer and next school year. If you avoid the opportunity to say goodbye with your class, it can have a negative impact on separation in the future among students.
There are many activities and lessons to include in your classroom to give the opportunity to say goodbye to each other. It is okay to provide multiple activities over a few weeks leading up to summer break to give time for younger children especially to process the goodbye. It is better for this to be a process than just a one-time event or lesson.
Below is a suggested activity titled, “Reach out and Touch Someone” that can be used from early elementary through high school:
Instructions: This exercise should be done with a group that has worked together for a while as a way of affirming each member’s contributions. The facilitator will instruct each of the students to form a circle with their backs facing inwards with their eyes shut. Once everyone is comfortable the facilitator will tap 3 individual students to open his or her eyes and enter the circle. They will be instructed to tap (on the shoulder, arm or back) the individual that ‘the someone statement’ most pertains to anonymously. Once the facilitator has read through a few statements the tapped individuals will resume their positions within the circle with their eyes closed and the next small group of students will be tapped. This will continue until all members of the group have had the opportunity to reach out and touch someone. If you have more than one adult in your class, include them in the circle so they can be part of the experience as well. It is nice to also include any remaining adults at the end to ‘reach out and touch someone’ who has not been reached yet via eye contact or pointing so no child feels left out.
This activity alone can be powerful as a way to anonymously provide affirmations to one another as a means to saying goodbye and giving closure for students. However, the activity alone is one tool, and time to process afterwards should be included in overall time. Allowing the class to sit back down and openly discuss how the activity went and how they felt can be an even more powerful impact on students. Below are a few key questions to consider when processing the activity with the class:
- How did this activity make you feel?
- How important is it to affirm the contributions of group members?
- How did you feel when someone touched you?
- At the beginning of this exercise you felt ____, now you feel ___?
- What are some other ways to affirm each other?
- What, if any, is some “someone” statements that you wished had been said?
- Would you like to recognize a few of those who you would have touched had that statement been read?
Classrooms and educators who take the time to process the successes over the school year and emotional ties created have an easier and healthier goodbye amongst students which in turn only strengthen the relationships and trust that was formed. What other ways does your school/classroom process healthy goodbyes?