The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Farewell

I was at my teacher inquiry group yesterday afternoon and, in the course of discussing creating thought-provoking questions that require close reading, read this short passage from The Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo:

There is no comfort in the word “farewell,” even if you say it in French. “Farewell” is a word that, in any language, is full of sorrow. It is a word that promises absolutely nothing.

I mean no disrespect to Ms. DiCamillo, who has written a treasury of fabulous children’s stories, but “farewell” is not a word full of sorrow, nor is it a word that promises nothing. Quite the opposite, in fact.

“Farewell” is a wish for the one who is parting. It speaks of safe travels. It is a compound of two words:

The first, faran, is from Old English and means “to journey, set forth, go, travel, wander, make one’s way,” The second, wel, also from Old English, means “abundantly, very, very much.” So when we say “farewell” to someone, we are telling them that we wish for them to set forth on a journey in an abundant, or very good, way. That’s pretty awesome, if you ask me.

Other words and phrases we use when parting express similar wishes. We also say things like, “talk to you later,” or “see you later.” I learned German while I was in high school and loved coming to realise that some of their common parting words, auf Wiedersehen and auf Wiederhoeren, both have that same meaning: until I see you (or hear you) again.

So today my class bid farewell. Not to one another, not to me, not a friend, but to our amazing student teacher, Ms. Schultz. She has been a part of our classroom community since the start of school, coming in every Tuesday and Wednesday to learn with us, to work with us, to teach and to be taught. But all good things come to an end. Today was her last day here in Room 31 at Wiley Elementary School. And so we celebrated in the only way that seemed fitting: we worked. Math, social studies, writers’ workshop, literacy, read aloud, learning buddies, we did it all.

Then we came to the room and said our goodbyes (a word that has its roots in the phrase God be with ye, once again expressing hope and wishes for the one who is leaving). Ms. Schultz brought some small tokens of appreciation for the students and I gave her a small gift of a special staple remover/letter opener that will remind her of how indispensable she has been to us this year.

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And then there was nothing left to do but to say thank you, take a group picture, and say farewell. We wish Ms. Schultz all the best as she goes to her next placement in the Spring. She has promised to keep in touch and we will keep in touch, too.

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