My principal chose someone as my successor with whom my students were already familiar. Not only was she a great teacher, but she often subbed at our school and already knew my students by name. They were used to her teaching style and had previously built a relationship with her.
The new teacher and I spent several hours together discussing student needs, classroom routines, lesson plans, and other information to help her and the students transition smoothly. She even volunteered to spend about two weeks with me in the classroom to observe and learn how our classroom worked. She did not have to do this, but I was so grateful that she did! It made things much easier for everyone involved when the day did come. I spent these days gradually releasing responsibility of the classroom to her. During this time, my students did not realize that she would be taking over soon. We told them that she was learning more about this grade because she was going to have her own 5th grade classroom very soon.
We prepared the parents. As soon as it was legal to do so, the school principal and I met with my parents to explain the transition that would soon happen.
I waited until the last day to tell my students. You may be thinking that's a bad idea, but it actually worked out for the very best. I didn't want to prolong any sadness my students would feel. When I told them, I focused on the fact that they were strong and prepared and would be better people for learning how to make a transition like this. I also told made sure they knew I fully supported the new teacher and assured them they were in good hands.
The last few minutes of the last day were a celebration of our good times together. The focus was not on how much we would miss each other, or the changes that would take place. Instead it was a very positive time. We focused on every good thing we'd done together. I made two posters that listed what I believed to be positive attributes about the group and individuals. The students added to them, as well, and they stayed in the classroom as reminders after I left.
I also gave each student some keepsakes I had previously made for them. I created a Wordle for each student like the one below and also a card with our class pictures on it:
Finally, I kept in contact with the new teacher and made occasional visits on special days. For example, I brought them a treat on Valentine's Day and came to Awards Day. I made myself available to the new teacher for questions, and we emailed one another. This part was a bit tricky, because I had to be careful not to overstep boundaries. They were not my class anymore, and even though it was difficult to let go I had to trust that they were in great hands and give the new teacher room to do her job without interference.
Leaving a classroom mid-year is something I never dreamed I would do, but I believe the way in which it was handled helped everyone involved to have a positive experience.
How about you? I would love to hear about your experience with this issue.