Good-bye to a Teacher Mid-Year
November, a little girl gave the head teacher in our preschool
class a hug and said, “Your belly is fat. Have you been eating
too much food, or do you have a big baby in there. Did you ever
think about that?” It was time to tell the children that their
teacher was in fact having a baby and that she was going to leave
at the end of January.
Mid-year transitions are a common occurrence in early childhood
classrooms, and it is important that they be carefully and sensitively
managed. Young children develop deep attachments to their teachers,
and it is difficult for them to understand when someone has to
For many of the children in our class, understanding why our teacher
was leaving meant that they had to learn where babies come from.
When our teacher told the children, during circle time, that she
was pregnant, everybody had something to say. The comments ranged
from, “I came out of my mommy’s mouth!” to “I wish I was your
baby.” We explained that when the time comes, she will push the
baby out of her vagina. One child said, “I hope you don’t scream!”
After the children found out that our teacher had a baby in her
belly, they became very interested in both babies and bellies.
They stuck out their bellies, wore pillows under their clothes,
pretended to give birth, and played baby and mommy games. This
play helped to prepare them for saying good-bye to their teacher.
In order to keep their excitement about the pregnancy from translating
into anxiety about their teacher’s departure, we explained to
them that she still had two months left at the Family Center.
We said, “Hanukah is going to come, and Christmas is going to
come, and it is going to get very cold before your teacher has
to leave.” The children repeated this statement to themselves
like a mantra. We also showed them the months on the calendar
and crossed out the days as they passed. This practice also supported
their calendar awareness and their math skills as they counted
the remaining days.
A month before our teacher was due, a new teacher was gradually
phased into the class. Roles and responsibilities that our head
teacher had traditionally assumed were slowly transferred to other
teachers in the room. By the time that she was ready to leave,
the children were comfortable with the new classroom structure.
We had a festive good-bye breakfast on our teacher’s last day.
After our teacher left, the children called her whenever they
wanted to chat. The children also sent a tape recording to her
on which they told her that they missed her and loved her. She
sent them a tape recording back in turn, on which she said hello
to each child individually. The other teachers in the class visited
our teacher and took pictures of her with her new baby. We made
these pictures into a book which we read at circle time. The children
refer to this book throughout the day and particularly enjoy looking
at it on their cots before nap. The children frequently remind
one another that the new baby needs lots of taking care of, and
that their teacher needs to stay at home in order to do that.
We are looking forward to meeting the baby when he visits the
class with his mother. This will occur when he is two months old,
and all the children know exactly how to find that date on the
Frazier is a preschool teacher at the Bank Street Family Center.
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