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Bittersweet Goodbyes

Three years ago, I wrote: “The first day of summer is always bittersweet for me. I wake up, with no help from my alarm, thankful for the hours of sleep, rays of sunshine, and unfamiliar moments of calmness that lie in the months ahead. Yet, there’s always a sense of sadness— a disappointment that I will never be together with this particular group of kids, as one collective unit, in the same place at the same time ever again.”

This morning marks day one of summer. I woke up at 6:52 with no help from my alarm, immediately thinking about students. The truth is, students were popping into my mind as my head hit the pillow last night for my first summer sleep. Even in my excitement for vacation, it always takes me a few days (sometimes longer) to detach from the classroom community we worked so hard to build. In this first morning of summer, I ventured out for coffee and donuts, still considering what I’ll miss about this particular 4Q family.

I’ll miss the trio of girls who are the best of friends—the kind that giggle and also care deeply about each other’s learning. They truly lifted each other as writers. I’ll miss the two pairs of besties. One duo loved to wear matching sweatshirts and cared for each other even through times of conflict. The other was a consistent seesaw of loving give and take. I’ll miss the boy who filled our room with laughter (at all the right and wrong times 🙃). I’ll miss the sweet and spicy personalities of two students who are striving to figure out who they are. I’ll miss my young friend who expressed that he didn’t want to be at school in the fall and winter, but now he does. How lucky are we that a community was created that he wanted to be a part of? I’ll miss the girl who began the year feeling lonely but learned how to make and maintain connections. I’ll miss her new friend who experienced a great loss this year and dug deep to come to school with a smile each day. I’ll miss the jokester personality who always loved a good challenge in math. I’ll miss the kiddo who joined us with six weeks left in the year—the one whose parents thanked me for fueling his excitement and desire to get up and come to school every day. I’ll miss the smiley child with lots of energy who greeted me warmly each morning.

There’s something to miss about all sixteen, and I’m grateful for the ways we leaned into learning and love each day. . .on the smooth days and the rough ones. Yesterday, I leaned into love once more and said sixteen bittersweet goodbyes.

There were kids who preferred quick side hugs. There were others who offered wide open arms. And, there were children who really leaned into the love, clearly wanting to linger a little longer in our embrace. . .I did too. I wish we could have lingered a little longer. I blinked back my tears, and I let them stroll down the hallway to meet their first moments of summertime.

This year, I decided to wait outside with the last few students who were waiting for their families in the long line of cars. There was quiet emotion in the air between us. I asked one if they would be seeing their two besties from our class this summer. I called to another who was beginning to run off too far. Then, I sat down next to the last fourth grader waiting—a student who grew in her own quiet yet strong ways this year.

For a moment, I let the silence sit between us. I could feel the emotion that we were both locking up in our hearts. I considered how she watched a friend move away suddenly, how she’d navigated her learning journey, and how she announced her important learning about life in our Social Issues Showcase. I also remembered how tightly she hugged me on Friday afternoon when I decided to show some extra end-of-year love prior to the weekend.

Not sure I’d be able to share without tears, I finally leaned in and simply said, “I want you to know that I’m really proud of you. You’ve grown a lot this year, and I’m going to miss you.” She responded with a quiet nod before we moved onto discussing summer plans followed by her recognition of mom’s car.

What I wrote three years ago still rings true to me. There’s always a sense of sadness— a disappointment that I will never be together with this particular group of kids, as one collective unit, in the same place at the same time ever again. However, if I’m lucky, individual students will make their way back to visit, and I’ll see how they have grown. I hope she is one of them.

I squeezed her tight, waved to mom, and walked through the main door of the school. With glistening eyes, I strolled down the hallway to meet my own first moments of summertime.

Published by Melissa Quimby

Melissa is a 4th grade teacher in Natick, Massachusetts. She can often be found with an iced coffee and middle grade novel in hand! Connect with her on Twitter & Instagram - @QUIMBYnotRamona.

4 thoughts on “Bittersweet Goodbyes

  1. Such a touching story of your last days with your students. I am with you. The end of the year is emotional for many of us. Those of us who build relationships with our students and their families. A mother reported to me that her daughter cried all afternoon after our goodbye. And she is not a “crier.” The bittersweetness comes from a tender place in your heart.

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  2. Your post brought back memories of years spent in the classroom and the bittersweet moments that came every year as we bid goodbye. Your descriptions of your sweet sixteen was endearing. It’s a tough calling to love and leave year after year. Lovely capture of the feelings.

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  3. It’s so very true, all of it. It’s so hard to let them go. I hope you can lean into summer and be refreshed too!

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