Monday, November 15

Saying Good–bye to a Student

Friday we said good-bye to a student from our class.  I’ve been reflecting on the journey this student and I have traveled.  In a small private school such as ours, losing a student is huge.  However, the decision was in the best interest of the student – not the school.

This young man has had a difficult road.  From the time he was three and in our nursery program, he has struggled.  He has extreme ADHD as well as other learning disabilities.  Each year, he has fallen farther behind and frustrated more.  Due to our declining enrollment, we lost our support services and this student lost his lifeline.

Even in our small setting and with my individualized approach to learning, I knew his needs were not being met.  In our setting, it was as if there was a magnifying glass on him.  He knew he wasn’t learning and was beginning to give up – in fourth grade!  I had to set my ego aside and look at the big picture.

With age, and finally, some maturity (cough, cough) on my part, I’ve come to realize I can’t fix every child.  I was working with this student so much that I was neglecting other students.  As much as I tried to balance it all, I knew I wasn’t being fair.  Also, since I had this student in third grade I knew what his strengths and weaknesses were and the fourth grade traditional curriculum was too much.  A decision had to be made.  Our school’s administrators agreed.

With a great sadness, I met with the parents and broke the news.  Due to the trusting relationship we had built, the meeting went well and I helped guide them through the process of having their son transfer to a public school where he would get all of the services he deserved.  We kept our focus on what was best for their wonderful child. 

The week leading up to the student leaving, I taught the class about time lines.  Each student made a time line of their lives.  Then, on Friday, we shared our time lines and discussed that life never stops changing.  At the end of the day, we wrote good-bye messages to our friend and hugged him good bye.  We will miss him.

While I admit that I can’t fix every child, my teacher’s heart is heavy.  I can’t seem to let go of the feeling that I could have done more. 

Letting go is hard.  Letting go of my ego is even harder.


Anonymous said...

No doubt you did all you could and you shouldn't beat yourself up. That being said, it's always somewhat traumatic for a member of the class or school family to leave.

My first year, we were finally able to get one of my fifth graders out of general ed and into an inclusion class (which she sorely needed for years). It was very emotional for everyone and we were all in tears, but she and I both knew she would do better elsewhere.

I chose to look at it as an opportunity for her to succeed in a way that suited her needs, and I hope you'll do the same.

Miss Shuganah said...

You cannot fix a child. We are all whole as we enter the world. We do not need fixing. What we need is love, compassion and understanding. You took this child as far as you could, and you deserve much praise for that. Knowing when it's time to let go is the toughest thing. We all have to let go of ideas and people. It's rare when things go as planned. Wishing you and your now former student much luck in the months ahead. You gave him a good foundation for his journey.

Nancy Hniedziejko (Nancy Ehrlich) said...

Thanks for the thoughtful and reflective comments. I appreciate it so much. I agree that letting go is hard, especially when you care so deeply. For the record, I was using the word "fix" in a colloquial way. I was trying to be descriptive in relating my passion for helping students. My purpose in writing the blog was to share how hard it is to admit when you can't do more. Thanks again for writing the comment. I value the time you took to do so. Nancy

Sarah said...

I'm so sorry about this situation!! I'm glad that you got to make some positive impact, even if it wasn't as much as you would have liked...
At least you got to say goodbye -- I had one of my favorite students withdrawn from the school by CPS this week. No forewarning or anything. We all miss him a lot!

Nancy Hniedziejko (Nancy Ehrlich) said...

Hey Sarah,
You are so right! It was helpful for both the kids and me to say goodbye. Thanks for your support. Really appreciate it.