Monday, March 26, 2012


I am at a school that is closing at the end of this school year. Actually, the primary wing closed last year, and reopened this fall as a charter school. The intermediate wing will close in May, and then reopen in August as part of the same charter school. Most of my fourth graders will attend the charter school, which is their neighborhood school, next year.

I have only been at the school one year, so it's not nearly as heart wrenching for me as it is for teachers who have been there ten or fifteen years. One of the fifth grade teachers, for example, sent her own children, who are now in their thirties to our school, then she became a paraprofessional, and then went back to school to become a teacher. She has never taught anywhere else.

Even though I have only been at the school for about eight months, I have a feeling that the next seven weeks are going to be one long goodbye. Have I mentioned that I absolutely hate goodbyes?

Last Thursday, for example, Uriel and his best friend, Juan, were talking about Barbara O'Connor. Uriel had just finished THE FANTASTIC SECRET OF OWEN JESTER. He had moved on to GREETINGS FROM NOWHERE and passed OWEN JESTER along to Juan. As we were wrapping up Readers' Workshop that day, Uriel said to me, "Are you going to get Barbara O'Connor's next book?"

I responded that I was sure I would, because she is one of my favorite authors and I have bought all of her books.

Paris, who is one of the strongest readers in my class and read OWEN last fall, while I was reading HOT TO STEAL A DOG to the class, overhead the conversation, "It's the one about the pigeon, right? But it's not coming out until Fall, is it?"

"I think I read that it is coming out in October," I say.

"We won't be in fourth grade, then?" asks Juan, not quite sure of the time frame.

"No, we'll be in fifth grade," says Paris.

"In fifth grade," said Uriel. "But you won't be with us in fifth grade, right, Ms. Wilcox? You will be at the school where they speak Spanish and English. "

"That's right, Uriel," I say.

"Well then, how will we get the book? How will we get to read Barbara O'Connor's pigeon book?" says Uriel.

I have to think fast on this one. "We are a reading family," I say. "And reading families stick together. The day Barbara O'Connor's new book comes out, I will go and buy four copies. I will keep one copy to read myself. And then I will come back to visit you. I will give one copy to each of the fifth grade classrooms, so that all of us who love Barbara O'Connor will get to read her next book. You can read it and email me and tell me what you think."

The boys seem ok with this solution. They will get to read their favorite author's newest book. We will see each other. We will talk about our reading. Just like we do every day.

And me?

I'm absolutely hating all this goodbye stuff.


Darlene A. said...

Goodbyes are always hard. They tug at our heart. We know that even when we say we will find time to get together, it's hard to arrange. I love the connection to books you have with your students and how you found a solution to getting the newest book in their hands.

Heartfeather said...

Goodbyes...letting someone know that they mattered...letting someone know that you will miss them...I teach a 3/4 group and so half of the group is saying goodbye and then hello to the new incoming group.
I love that you have are a reading family...they will always have that to remember.

Michelle said...

I love this! I love this because it shows how important reading is to your students. I love this because I can obviously see how important your students are to you. I love this because even though you'll be saying goodbye, you will still see them in the fall, you will still share a great book by a great author, you will still be connected through books. I love this.

Dana said...

I hear you. I made the decision a few weeks ago not to return to my school next year (as I'm currently a literacy coach and I'm ready to go back to teaching). Although it was my own choice, I feel like everyday is now a reminder of the upcoming goodbye and preparation for it. Goodbyes are not fun. I love how you promised to bring the book to the kids in fall!

Linda B said...

It was harder in the classroom, especially that last year two years ago, but we at school all go through some of it because many of us have had the 8th graders at some point & from now till the end, they will say things like "last Expo", last trip, last spring break, etc. I think it must be hard to be leaving the actual school, though. And, did I miss a post about a new position. Congratulations! If I did, I'm so happy you are settled somewhere, Carol. And, this was such a tribute to you & the students' love of reading from you. How great is that!!!

Carol said...

Thanks so much for all of your kind words. I have the greatest class this year, and am really going to miss them as readers and people!

I do have a new job, Linda! I will be a literacy coach at a K-8 school. Answered prayers! Here is the link to where I told about it.

Anonymous said...

I love that you are going to make sure that they can read the author that they love. I teach 8th graders, and I always tell them that they are welcome to come back and check out books from me for their high school long as they promise to bring them back for my newest classes to enjoy.

Karen said...

I love that you are helping you students with this transition to not having you around with the idea of a reading family. It allows these students who trust you so much to stay connected.

Like you, I hate goodbyes as well. Long goodbyes are even worse. Best of luck these next few weeks.

Jaana said...

I would have loved to have you as my teacher!! Can I go back a few (?) years?? What a blessing to have a teacher who cares so deeply about her students and how they can become better readers! There will be a reward for you!

Katherine Sokolowski said...

Wow, goodbyes are so hard. Fortunately, although my fifth graders move on to the middle school, they can still come visit. But I do hate saying goodbye. Good luck to you and your wonderful students.

Lee Ann Spillane said...

What a great solution. Goodbyes are never easy!

Nanc said...

This line really gets to me: "Well then, how will we get the book? How will we get to read Barbara O'Connor's pigeon book?" says Uriel. With these children you have given them the gift of life. These kids really don't want to let go...I wouldn't either if you were my teacher, Carol.
PS My son Jeff, who I wrote to you two years about finding a church is interviewing for a Job at Mile High United Way...he would appreciate prayer support and so would I...because God knows...he needs insurance :) love nanc

Carol said...

Nancy- Not sure how to get hold of you aside from here. Thanks so much for your kind words. I will pray for your son- that he will be blessed with the absolutely perfect job (with insurance, of course!) Keep me posted!

Anonymous said...

I still remember leaving a school for the first time. Still remember those kids. Clearly you have connected with these kids and that is something they can carry with them into the future. I'm sorry about the long goodbye. It's not going to be easy, but it's clear that it will be meaningful and rich.

Jone said...

I cannot imagine how hard this must be for everyone. How wonderful for the students that you will bring him the new O'Connor book. Sending you a hug.

Barbara O'Connor said...

Oh my gosh!!! I love this so much. What a wonderful teacher you are. I am honored to have such a devoted fan to pass my books along to kids who love them. Thank you!!

Laura Lynn Benson said...

Carol, once again, you grow my heart...Knowing the connected relationships you have built with your students, knowing how much you love them and give them and learn from them...This long good-bye is especially hard...but only you could nurture the hope of continuing your connections so lovingly, so sweetly...Please let me go with you to buy Barbara's new books xoxoxoxo I love you, Sister! xoxoxxo

Mary Lee said...

Would you please quit making me CRY?!?!