Saying Farewell to Your Seniors


Your book is out and distributed, your grades ready to turn in, but there’s one last lesson to teach: How to say goodbye.

A few weeks ago, we talked about the value of celebrations, where students get time and space to look back and celebrate their hardships, accomplishments, and relationships, as well as say goodbye.


But what about you, the adviser? How do you say goodbye, especially to your seniors?


Many advisors do a group letter to their graduating seniors, although you may choose to create a video or write individual letters to each student. The method isn’t the most important part; what matters is (a) that you do something, and (b) that you touch on all that’s important.


That second part, the important things, is what we’d like to focus on today. Just what kinds of things should be in this letter? Here are some ideas, thoughts, and phrases to think about as you sit down to write:

  • Give encouraging reminders and kudos:

  • “You have learned that your voices have power and value, and hopefully have also learned how best to use that power.”

  • “You have learned much about yourselves and learned to do things you might have thought impossible.”

  • “You have set a high bar for the students who will follow.”

  • “You worked with and learned from students older than you, and guided students younger than you.”

  • “You gained a broad understanding of our student body that even we as teachers and administrators will never have.”

Help them to appreciate both their successes and their failures, how much they learned from both, and how life will be filled with these lessons.
  • Help them to appreciate both their successes and their failures, how much they learned from both, and how life will be filled with these lessons:

  • Remind them of all the late nights, long weekends, deadline pressures, and how they survived it all and came out better off on the other side.

  • Remind them about learning all the things that they didn’t know that they didn’t know.

  • Remind them of a failure to make the point, “look, we overcame that. We got past it, and in the end, we succeeded.” A successful ending almost never happens without failures in the middle.

  • Your time here matters. What you did matters.” Remind them that they may not see it right away, but there is meaning to all the time they spent on your staff—it may take months or years for a situation to come up, and then suddenly they remember, “Oh I know how to do this…I did this in Yearbook!”

  • Express your wishes for them:

  • Your optimism and hope for what they will do next.

  • Remind them that they have been a positive influence in the lives of those around them and to always strive for that.

  • They will be challenged, but remind them to have courage.

  • “You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” (Pooh, Pooh’s Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin)

Remind them to be people of good character, even when selfishness and cutting corners may seem like shortcuts to success.
  • Remind them to be people of good character, even when selfishness and cutting corners may seem like shortcuts to success.

  • “All children must look after their own upbringing. Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” – Anne Frank

  • Remind them that their hard work on the yearbook will be treasured for decades, even if their names are not remembered. Encourage them to continue being people of compassion and service.

  • “Vocation is the place where your deep gladness meets the world's deep need.” - Frederick Buechner



  • Express your thanks to them:

  • Thank them for all their effort, hard work, and extra hours.

  • Thank them for how they impacted you, taught you, and changed you.

  • Thank them for the valuable artifact they are leaving behind—a one-of-a-kind record of this year in this place.

  • Are there any apologies you feel led to offer? Yearbook is a hard gig; expectations can run high, patience can run low and tempers can run short.

  • As one adviser said in her note, “If you found me to be incessantly critiquing, I hope you also found me to be unconditionally supporting.”

  • Talk about endings and how to say goodbye well:

  • Even though your curriculum and lesson plans for these students may be done, they can still learn from you. For some of them, graduating from high school may be their first really big “goodbye”; give them some wisdom about it as they go out the door.

The challenge of caring about people is that you miss them when they are gone. A lot of “adulting” involves expecting — and learning how — to say goodbye.
  • Endings happen throughout life, so it’s important to know how to end well. The challenge of caring about people is that you miss them when they are gone. A lot of “adulting” involves expecting — and learning how — to say goodbye.

  • Longfellow: “Great is the art of beginning, but greater the art is of ending.”


I hope this has been of some help. United Yearbook regularly offers workshops and resources on this and other topics, for both new and experienced advisors. To learn more, contact us at 877-489-7462 or visit our website at https://www.unitedyearbook.net.

 

Dr. John Tuttle, Curriculum Specialist & Lecturer


Dr. John Tuttle is a lecturer for UYB’s in-class workshops, and also works with curriculum development, podcasts, and blog posts. He holds an M.A. in Philosophy of Religion and a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration from Biola University, where for ten years he was Director of Student Communications. For several years, Dr. Tuttle has also worked as an adjunct faculty member within Biola’s “great books” program.


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