Saying Goodbye to Students: How to Set up for a Leave of Absence
My last week of teaching for the current school year was the week before last, as I will be taking a leave of absence in order to give birth to my second son in January. For the period of time that you are with your kids, your heart is tightly attached to the problems, wins, and failures that they face on a daily basis. This is an unusual dilemma for a teacher to be in because of this connection.
Therefore, in order to facilitate a smooth transition for both my pupils and myself, I worked hard to ensure that they would be as well-prepared as possible when they were handed off to the substitute teacher who would be taking my place. In point of fact, I’ve devoted a significant amount of time to making preparations for my final academic experience during the course of this past semester.
I’ve given a lot of thought to streamlining my lessons for this semester, picking the best of the best in order to leave the students as rich in necessary knowledge as possible, and trying to strike a balance between what I know will be tested (identifying parts of speech) and what I know is my duty to teach despite not appearing on the tests. I’ve given a lot of thought to culling my lessons this semester, picking the best of the best in order to leave the students as rich in necessary knowledge as possible (Internet literacy). In the end, I believe that I have arrived at what I consider to be sensible choices by considering the following factors:
Which teachings are most effective at instilling the information?
Which lessons go into greater depth and focus on specific areas rather than being more general and filled with information?
What ideas would be more challenging for someone to teach around the middle of the school year, and what lessons could be covered by a substitute regardless of the calibre of the substitute?
In addition to that, I have established a few procedures for the substitute teacher to follow, in the event that they want to do so, in the hopes of facilitating a smoother transition for them into the classroom.
The person who will be taking over will find the following items ready and waiting for them:
1. An index of all of the writing samples in the portfolios. I gave the students an assignment to organise and develop a table of contents based on the artefacts in our writing portfolio. This table of contents will be able to be reviewed and altered for further assignments. This also generates a cumulative folder of work for the substitute teacher to use in order to become familiar with a student’s level in a very short amount of time. The substitute teacher does not have to begin from scratch if she does not like to do so, and the students can use the writing in their folders as models or references for their own process. Any of the pieces of writing can be utilised as a rough draught.
2. A word splat that reflects on something. The last week of the semester was spent reflecting on everything that was accomplished over the semester by participating in a classroom competition known as the Reflective Word Splat. This is something that I usually do at the end of the school year, but it can be done now to help the students comprehend how far we’ve gone, and it also gives a resource for them to refer to later on in the year when they are preparing for tests. The competition requires each class to compile a comprehensive list of the various ideas that have been discussed, and the winning class is the one that identifies the greatest number of these ideas. Word choice, transitions, reading genres, and semi-colons are just some of the things that they cry out. Sometimes one of these will lead to a list of terms, such as how reading about different genres will eventually result in the children shouting out the many genres that we have talked about.
3. Delegating authority to one’s children. I’ve assigned jobs that might help the classroom run more smoothly and maintain my supplies and classroom library using one of those elementary school job charts, you know, the ones where you indicate which student will turn out the lights or who will be the line leader. I’ve also included jobs thattain my classroom library.
4. Test prep folder. Every year, we begin the process of creating a test preparation folder that contains our cold read district assessments, test taking hints—a list that we continually add to—reading test reflections on what we got right and wrong on the test and why, and word lists derived from The Princeton Review’s podcast, The Vocabulary Minute. Even if it does not continue to grow, just having it as it is now will be useful come April. I have left instructions on how to continue this accumulating folder so that the students actually have something to study before our state tests in the spring, but even if it does not continue to grow, having it as it is now will still be useful.
It is going to be difficult for me to close this book as I go on to the next one in my life. I will miss Selena because, despite the fact that she was constantly chatting, she managed to bring something fresh to the table with every exchange. I will miss Eugene, who seemed incapable of putting together a complete academic essay, but whose poetry had the ability to bring tears to my eyes. I shall forget Jason, who was unable to memorise his speech in time for the competition, but by the time it came around, he had purchased his very first tie and was beaming with pride as he wore it. I will miss Andrea, who was bitter about her ability gap when she entered my classroom, having spent the previous year in a remedial writing class, only to have found a passion for Shakespeare and an unparalleled ability to translate literary themes into her own life after spending that year in my class. Andrea will be greatly missed.
These children are all works in progress, and although it makes me sad that I won’t be able to witness what they have become by the end of the school year, it is time for me to bid them farewell. It was helpful because owing to the kind of credential I had, we were really able to interview for the long-term post rather than being obliged to pick a random sub from a district seniority list. This helped us get the position that we wanted.
And as bad as it may sound, we benefited from someone else’s budget cuts this year by employing a brilliant, curious, and talented teacher who had been a victim of a mid-year budget cut in November. The budget cut had occurred in the middle of the school year. Because of her enthusiasm, obvious love for middle school students, and readiness to seek assistance from other coworkers, I am able to leave knowing that the children will be cared for by capable individuals, and I am grateful to her for this.
What precautions would you take, then, in the event that you needed to take a leave of absence? How would you academically say goodbye?
I would like to wish everyone in the Edutopia community a happy holiday season and best wishes for a revitalising start to the new year. All of you, see you in 2011!