I Won’t Be Able to Say a Proper Goodbye to My Students and That Breaks My Heart


I Won't Be Able to Say a Proper Goodbye to My Students and My Heart Aches

I miss my students. This isn’t like winter or spring break when I know I’ll see them again soon. It isn’t like summer either. I’m able to enjoy summer break because I had closure with my students. There was time for us to prepare to part ways and to process the feelings that go with it. 

My students and I left school on a Friday afternoon thinking we’d see each other Monday as usual. It’s been four weeks since any of us have stepped foot in our classroom or seen each other in person. After weeks of wondering when and if we’d return, our state has moved to remote learning for the rest of the school year. We will never return to our classroom as a group again. This morning I woke up feeling that grief in a big way. My heart is heavy. 

I miss our classroom community.

I love my students and know they look to me to help them understand confusing and scary things in the world. I worked hard to build strong relationships by focusing on connections. My classroom is a community, a school family. Students encouraged each other to try new challenges and cheered each other on. I’ve loved watching them bloom as a group. Now they’re without my guidance and the support of their classmates during a really challenging time. 

I miss watching them find their stride. 

Some students just started to come out of their shells. Others finally started to trust me and share with me the hardships they’re experiencing. They’ve been growing and evolving all year. I wanted to see the difference in person all the way through the last day of school.  

I miss watching their faces shine when they have that lightbulb moment. 

It just isn’t the same through a screen because I’ve gotten so used to sharing physical space with my students. And because of the stress and awkwardness of the situation, there haven’t really been many shiny moments – for me or them. I miss watching their arms excitedly shoot up in the air when they know the answer. I miss the excitement of learning together in person.

I miss the little moments. 

I took for granted all the special handshakes, high fives and bad jokes each day. I miss singing, dancing, laughing and being silly as a group. I miss students coaching me to be the cool teacher after school by teaching me bottle flipping, text lingo, and TikTok dances. I miss the artwork and notes they slipped me.

I miss our talks. 

I love hearing their stories. They talked about their dreams, goals, and worries. They asked me for advice about problems. They gossiped to me about their classmates, friends, other teachers, siblings, and parents. They told me about their passions and interests. Yes, I even miss hearing about Minecraft! They made me laugh and cry by sharing their views and experiences. I worked hard to make connections so they knew they could come to me. 

I miss them asking me about my life. 

My students loved asking about life when I was a kid. I miss their confusion and horror that I grew up without iPhones and Netflix. I miss their curiosity about my life and them trying to guess my age. I miss watching their faces light up with joy and surprise when they run into me outside of school.

I miss knowing my students are safe. 

Some come from really rough home situations. Others deal with heavy emotional and mental health struggles. My classroom was a safe place – the only safe place for some students. I miss being able to physically put my eyes on them and gauge how they’re doing. I can’t offer hugs to kids who seem like they could use one or give a reassuring smile to someone who looks like they’re having a bad day. I miss picking up on body language and the look in their eyes that let me know if they’re struggling with comprehension, aren’t feeling well, didn’t get enough sleep, or are upset about something. I’m frustrated I can’t do enough to support them virtually – especially now when they really need extra support. 

I miss celebrating with my students. 

I’m grieving for missed milestones: the storebought birthday cupcakes with the way too-sweet icing that dyes your tongue blue for the rest of the day, the math competitions, the spelling bees, the end of year recitals, and the big games. I’m sad kids are missing out on end-of-year parties, long-anticipated field trips, awards ceremonies, proms, and graduation. I was just as excited about these milestones as they were and have been planning with them all year. 

I miss being in the same room as my students. 

I have colleagues who have been virtual teachers for years. They do a fantastic job getting to know their students and building strong virtual classroom communities. They are great teachers who excel at their jobs. My students and I weren’t prepared to do school from our homes, though. This was sudden and heartbreaking for us. The emotional and social impact of the COVID-19 crisis makes it difficult for my students to focus, stay on task and adjust to a new way of learning. It’s hard for me to do those things, too. I’m mourning the version of school we’ve lost. 

Many students have messaged they miss me. This breaks my heart. They shouldn’t have to miss me. We should have had two more months together so I could help them transition to the next chapter. This was all too sudden.

So, what do we do as teachers?

We let them know we miss them too. We let them know it’s okay to be sad and to miss being at school. We reassure them this is temporary and they’ll get through it. Then we close it out with a fun fact, quick joke and a call to get back to work. Because that’s what teachers do. We acknowledge when things are hard, encourage, reassure and keep things moving along. 

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I Won't Be Able to Say a Proper Goodbye to My Students and That Breaks My Heart

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Rachael Moshman
Rachael Moshman, M.Ed. is a mom, educator, writer, and advocate for self-confidence. She’s been a teacher in classrooms of infants through adult college students. She loves pizza, Netflix and yoga.
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