As a PreK teacher (and mom of two young boys,) my May calendar is usually jam-packed with the end of year checklists, class parties, school carnivals, VPK graduation, student portfolios, and so much more! In my class, we spend the last few weeks of school making “Summer Bucket Lists,” talking about what kindergarten will be like, and savoring those last few precious preschool events. This May we are ending our year with video lessons, virtual hugs, and Zoom graduation celebrations. And, it breaks this teacher’s heart.

say goodbye

As a mom, I remember cherishing each and every one of those last preschool events with my youngest son. The Muffins for Mom celebration, the end of year crafts, and the sweet sound of my baby singing in a little graduation cap on stage. I loved each of those moments so much because I knew that once he went to “big kid school” it would never be the same. As we end this school year in such a non-traditional way, due to COVID-19, I can’t stop thinking about what my students are missing out on, and how their parents must feel. It just plain is not fair.

While the mom in me is grieving for my students and their parents, I am also heartbroken for myself as their teacher. Not only does this long-distance learning not count as “real” school in my book, but I will never get this time back with my students. I will never get to high-five them with they find one of their sight words in a book again. I will never get to sing the “Days of the Week” song with them during circle time. Never again will I see their eyes light up when we do a fun science investigation or get to experience a light bulb moment when they finally figure out how to do something new. I will never get to give them a good morning hello or hear about their exciting weekend plans. It’s all just so sad and so abrupt.

say goodbye
Me, when I ran into school for some virtual learning supplies, having a little pity party with our class mascot over my empty classroom frozen in time.

The last time I saw my students was mid-March when we were heading off to spring break. In fact, our class calendar is still frozen in time on that date. If I had known that we would not be returning, I would have hugged them a little tighter for that last goodbye. I would have reassured them that they were going to rock in kindergarten. And, I would have told them for the millionth time that they are going to change the world one day.

So, to the parents who are grieving the end of their child’s PreK year, you have every right to feel sad. Yes, your child will have other big milestones in their life, but you are allowed to be upset about the way this special year ended. To the kids whose last preschool year ended abruptly, know that your teachers love and miss you so much. They would do anything to give you a proper goodbye hug and see you one more time before you go to kindergarten. And, to the teachers who are struggling with not getting to end your school year the right way and are feeling all the feels, I am right there with you. 


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Karen Smith
Karen was born in Ohio but spent most of her childhood in Florida. She attended the University of Florida, where she met her husband, and she got her Master’s in Elementary Education at the University of South Florida. She taught first grade in Tampa until her oldest son was born. Her plans to return to the classroom changed when her husband’s job brought them to Pennsylvania where they welcomed another son. The following years brought them to Raleigh and then St. Augustine. After spending two years substitute teaching in St. Johns County, Karen is now teaching VPK at a local preschool. She enjoys days on the water with her family, reading “chick lit” with a glass of wine, pretending to be Ina Garten in the kitchen, and cheering on her Gators. She embraces all things #boymom and has never met a doughnut/taco/pasta that she didn’t like.