From Our Blog: Managing Transitions: When A Teacher Leaves

When a Teacher Leaves

Today’s post is courtesy of Elizabeth Patterson, a working parent and Bright Horizons mom of two.

Somewhere I read that people tell us change is just a part of life. I think they tell us that when things we don’t want to have happen actually happen.

In the past year and a half, our family has gone through some major change. I lost my job. We moved. I started a new job. My husband started a new job (with job travel!). Our son potty trained. Our son moved from a crib to a bed. Our daughter started walking and talking. Now it’s her turn to potty train. And so on. When life is full of transitions, we cling to whatever seems stable and familiar. Mommy and Daddy are always present, of course. Routines are good, if you can keep to them.

And we cling to teachers. Teachers are there all day, every day. Teachers help and partner with us through the little, daily transitions of drop off, sniffles, mood swings, and so much more. And by us, I mean me.

In daycare with a classroom setting, teacher transitions are annual, at very least, as a child moves up the developmental chain. When our son made his first transition, from the baby room to the 1-year-olds, I thought the sky would fall in and anticipated major tears. He was perfectly fine and didn't miss a beat. When our daughter made this transition last summer, I BEGGED our teacher to just move with us. I thought this was an early childhood education BREAKTHROUGH concept. Really, I just couldn’t bear the thought of not having our chats every morning. This particular teacher helped my daughter and me (ok, mostly me) through those BIG transitions we went through as a family. Then, it dawned on me that while my daughter is in a different classroom, I can still pop my head into the baby room to share big smiles and get a dose of her serenity. Relief!

But what happens when the teacher you love leaves you? I’m convinced my son’s first crush is on his PK3 teacher. She knows him as well as if not better than I do. She has been a true partner with us in his journey from age three to four - the time when he went from a toddler to a little boy. Of course, because she’s terrific, other schools wanted her. When she told me about the departure, she was very smart about it. The conversation went like this:

“Elizabeth, I have some exciting news for you.” “Um, ok.” “I am going to move to a new school. But it’s not going to happen for several weeks, so you don’t have to worry just yet. I just wanted you to get used to the idea. I will give you plenty of warning before the time comes.”

I believe this is exactly how I prep the kids for car ride to school every morning. And I learned the technique from her!

When our countdown started, my son moved to PK4 and she went with him due to staffing issues and to ease him and a few other kids into the transition (see, my idea really is a good one!). And then suddenly, we were down to our last days. I kept my eye on our son, looking for the warning signs of withdrawal. The party line was that he’d learned everything he could from her and now it was time to go teach other kids their ABCs and 123s. My husband is the creative one, so he and our son made a good-bye card in the form of a letter to those other kids and it explained how lucky they are to have her as their new teacher. We alerted them that she likes the color pink, hugs, and listening ears.

She and I hugged good-bye and I, of course, cried in the car by myself on the way to work. My son was stoic. All he said was, “I’m going to be a little sad on Monday, really.”

I think his maturity is the mark of a really, really gifted teacher. We both miss her.

I’m Elizabeth Patterson. At 47, my life has completely turned around in a few short years. I was single, but now am married with a two-year-old daughter and four-year-old son (both at Bright Horizons). I used to live a simple, organized city life, but am now in the suburbs, trying to find my car keys and finally understanding years of TV commercials about serving dinner in under 30 minutes. I used to be a marketing manager with a money market account, but now I am clipping coupons and working as an administrative assistant. There are ups and downs, but I think I’m the luckiest person in the world.


  • E-family news: Moving On Up: Transitioning to the Next Early Childhood Classroom
  • E-family news: Helping Children Cope When A Teachers Leaves
  • Bright Horizons Online Community: Share parenting advice, tips and recommendations with other families
  • Read more posts about teachers and posts about transitions from the Family Room bloggers
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When a Teacher Leaves