SIP 11.14 Crafting Meaningful Goodbyes

Thirsty for a Strong Instructional Practice?

Graduating student waving during Commencement ceremony.

This spring, we quickly moved our classes online and campus was closed down due to COVID-19. Though we have continued to work and teach together, many of us did not get to say goodbye or formally celebrate our time together as part of our larger departmental or Metropolitan State University of Denver community. In addition, we are all experiencing the isolation and stress of sheltering in place, job loss, health fears, housing insecurity and more. Saying goodbye is important and hard under normal conditions, but our current context makes it even more important that we say goodbye intentionally and provide students the opportunity for celebration, closure, connection and purpose.

Take a SIP of this:

The current pandemic can make school and work feel less important, a bother, hopeless and a distraction from what really matters. Students and teachers can lose sight of what they have learned and accomplished during the past semester and potentially over their entire time at MSU Denver. They may even lose sight of how important their field, contributions, expertise and relationships really are. Though difficult to endure, these are normal responses to crisis and stress. However, when we are getting ready to finish a hard semester and/or to graduate, we do not want to feel disappointed, powerless, disconnected or that we do not matter or our time at MSU Denver did not matter.

This is where saying goodbye and intentionally planning the end of your semester is essential this year. Goodbyes, celebrating accomplishments and having closure rituals also support trauma-informed pedagogy. Trauma and chronic stress challenge our sense of purpose, take away our agency and strain relationships. Many of our students, in addition to COVID-19, have survived traumatic situations that have impacted their development and education.

Honor you students through:

  • Reinforcing their purpose and larger connection with you and the world.
  • Recognizing all that they have overcome and accomplished, reminding them of their strengths.
  • Sharing the importance of relationship by providing space for them to connect with you and their peers through saying goodbye and how you will stay connected in the future.

You may think you don’t have time to devote to goodbyes, but please challenge yourself as to whether the final chapter or lecture is really necessary. Instead, make time and space for your students to name and celebrate their hardships, accomplishments and relationships, and say goodbye.

Here are some suggestions to help your students during this traumatic time and to make saying goodbye a little easier:

  1. Consider making a goodbye video reviewing main takeaways from your course, what you have learned from your students, how they have impacted your life, how you will remember them and your hopes for their future.
  2. Provide your contact information and encourage students to get in touch with you. Encourage them to get on LinkedIn or join an alumni group on campus.
  3. Use space in their final-assignment feedback to include a personal statement and goodbye to each student, and make sure to use their name.
  4. If possible, have students invite family and/or friends to their final virtual presentation/capstones to honor all the student has accomplished.
  5. Create a meme or GIF making fun of yourself or sharing an inside class joke and distribute it to your students in the final week. Or have them create something in a final discussion post.
  6. Share what they have learned, accomplished and created, and acknowledge them getting through despite the pandemic.
  7. Hold space for students to share their appreciation and feelings with one another and the instructor through a video chat such as Flipgrid.
  8. Express how their chosen field and accomplishments prepare them to make a difference in their world.
  9. Recognize your own successes in teaching during a pandemic and celebrate with your colleagues all you have accomplished.

Still thirsty? Take another SIP of this:

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