Saturday, April 13, 2013

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. - Dr. Seuss

Originally, I planned to write a blog post about teaching my second lesson plan in Molly’s classroom. After all, I did light a cigarette on school grounds to emphasize the dangers of smoking to the first graders. And I had a very good time doing it. However, teaching my last lesson also reminded me of the conversation Ariela initiated at the end of our last C2C class—How do you plan to say goodbye to the students?

Now, I should preference the rest of my post by saying that I hate goodbyes. I am the worst at saying goodbye, actually. I find it awkward and terribly hard. It just seems so weird to me. How can a person go from being so prevalent in your life (physically, I mean) to just completely gone? Therefore, I often choose the poor coping mechanism of avoidance to deal with goodbyes. I pretend we aren’t saying goodbye for a long period of time or forever. We are just saying goodbye like any other “see you later!”

But that doesn’t really work with students. Particularly the students we work with. How do you say goodbye without having any idea how these students will turn out? I remember when Molly told me that a young boy in her class was moving to another school halfway through the semester because his sibling was kicked out of their elementary school. Molly told me she had just cried after his last day, because he had been doing so well, but was now going to a worse school where he could retrogress. She had nick-named him Yale, because he decided he wanted to go there for college. Will his next teacher encourage him to pursue that dream like Molly did? It made me realize, I am saying goodbye to 20 students and I have no idea what is going to happen them. Will they continue to have people in their lives that care about them as much as Molly does? Will they start smoking in high school, even though they squealed and faked coughed and gagged when I lit that cigarette in class? Will the student Molly nick-named Harvard keep that dream, or will the challenges he faces ahead allow him to settle for something less?

I plan to write each student a thank you note. I want to thank you for sharing their classroom with me and for letting me learn along side with them. I want to thank them for sharing their thoughts, dreams, and lives with me. And I want to tell them once last time that I believe in each and every one of them. Each of them is unique, intelligent, and special. But what I don’t know how to tell them or thank them for, is how much they impacted me. Because of them, I made the final decision to teach at YES Prep next year, a charter school in Houston that requires all their students to be admitted to a 4-year institution before they graduate from high school. I plan to take my memories of their smiles, hugs, and ridiculous questions with me. How do I thank a first grader for that?

"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard” - The Movie Annie

- Sara Millimet, MPH student, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University
Teach For America (Houston, 2013)


  1. Awesome post, Sara! What you said about fearing the unknown...what will happen with these students after you're gone...definitely resonates with me. I have really enjoyed the experiences I've had in Jenny's classroom and know that they will continue to impact me long after this C2C experience is over. I can only hope that some of the students we've worked with will carry some of these lessons and conversations with them over the years.

  2. Saying goodbye is hard for professors too. We always wonder what you all will take from our time together, how you will use it, if you will keep in touch, etc.

  3. Beautiful post Sara. It's hard to let go and trust that other people will take care of them and nurture them in the way that they need, especially when the structures aren't in place for that. This is something that I struggle with all the time being in the field of nursing. I won't know what happens to my patients when I leave the hospital at the end of the day. In fact, I actually have a quote from Archbishop Oscar Romero (a social justice and peace activist during the El Salvador civil war who was killed)that I hung up in my room. It's framed in a religious context, but I think it applies to nonreligious context also.

    "It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

    The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
    it is even beyond our vision.

    We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
    of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
    Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
    that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
    No statement says all that could be said.
    No prayer fully expresses our faith.
    No confession brings perfection.
    No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
    No program accomplishes the church's mission.
    No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

    This is what we are about.
    We water seeds already planted,
    knowing that they hold future promise.

    We lay foundations that will need further development.
    We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

    We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation
    in realizing that. This enables us to do something,
    and to do it very well. It may be incomplete,
    but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
    an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.

    We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
    between the master builder and the worker.

    We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
    We are prophets of a future not our own