Celebrating Residency Endings and Creating Healthy Closure
Taking time to recognize the ending of a residency through celebration and reflection is important—not only at the culminating event, but also within the classroom community. End-of-residency celebrations and reflections highlight process and outcomes and prepare students for this final transition in your work together.
Facilitated endings are important for all students, especially for those who need specific support related to transitions, memory, and processing or those who have experienced trauma.
Creating opportunities for students to offer each other compliments and positive feedback to affirm the inclusive community that has been built.
Leading a reflection activity in which students create a tangible object (a portfolio, a piece of artwork, etc.) to foster a sense of closure that they can see, touch, and carry with them.
Why You Need to Plan for the End from the Beginning
Taking time to recognize the ending of a residency through celebration and reflection is important—not only at the culminating event, but also within the classroom community. End-of-residency celebrations and reflections highlight process and outcomes and prepare students for this final transition in your work together. As a Teaching Artist (TA), your time with the students is limited, so it is important to forecast when the ending is coming—being transparent about how long you are with the students and taking time to celebrate and reflect on your time together leads to healthy closure and enables them to transition to the next thing smoothly.
How to Create Healthy Closure
Understand the Importance of Endings
Endings—just like other forms of transitions—can be challenging for students who experience frustration around changes in routine, have difficulty with short or long-term memory, need extra time for processing, or have experienced trauma. Being intentional and caring about the end of your residency is important to support all students in making this final transition and experiencing a healthy sense of closure.
Prepare for the Ending from the Beginning
When building classroom routines and rituals, consider incorporating a way to track how many sessions you’ve had together and how many you have left. This can be done visually (like using a visual session tracker to fill a square for each class) or through a physical activity (like clapping a rhythm with as many beats as classes you’ve had together).
Acknowledge and Affirm Emotions
Endings can spark a range of emotions—for students and Teaching Artists. Be prepared to recognize, name, and accept everything your students might feel. Sharing your own feelings about the end of the residency can be a great way to model emotional awareness and healthy self-regulation.
Create a Transition Object
A transition object is an object that will help students hold onto the knowledge, skills, and personal strengths they’ve developed and to remember the relationships they built with you as the teaching artist and their peers. Transition objects can be created by the students (e.g., personal portfolio, a letter to self, or reflective art piece) or by the Teaching Artist (e.g., a class anthology, a letter from TA to student(s), or a small trinket like a pencil or pin).
How to Celebrate the End of a Residency
Make it Motivating
Use the last session to share an activity from your residency that your students enjoyed—a theater game they love, choice time with different art stations, etc. If applicable, you could even show a video of the culminating performance they just were part of if you have one available!
Make it Positive
Facilitate an activity where students give each other compliments.
Example: Ensemble Web Activity
Have the entire ensemble sit in a circle. Start with a ball of yarn and hold onto one end. Give someone else across the circle a compliment and pass the ball to them (still holding onto your end). Continue until everyone has given and received a compliment and you have created a web of support.
Example: Hot Seat Compliments
Have ensemble members sit in the hot seat one at a time. While they are in the hot seat, their fellow ensemble members share compliments about them (take the same number of compliments for each student). Have a teacher write down the compliments on post-it notes and encourage everyone to take home their post-its to remember the nice things their ensemble members said about them.
If you have a small group of writers, you could take the time for everyone to write a compliment on a post-it for each ensemble member. Announce who we should write a compliment about, put on some instrumental music, and set a timer for how long they have to write (30 seconds, a minute, whatever you feel is appropriate). When the time is up, have everyone pass their notes in so that everyone ends up with a stack of compliments for themselves. When it’s your turn, take the time to write a compliment to yourself!
Celebrate All Roles
Create opportunities for all students to have a role in the culminating event. These could take many different forms. Celebrate all students even if they didn’t do the role they originally thought they would. Sometimes, if someone has stage fright and doesn’t end up performing, they worry that the celebration doesn’t include them. Point out a moment throughout the residency that they did an awesome job! Those who work behind-the-scenes deserve to be celebrated just as much as those who enjoy the spotlight.
Reflect on Successes and Growth Moments
Allow time for students to reflect on what felt exciting and successful as well as any learning moments and challenges the group had to overcome. This helps celebrate the confidence and sense of community that has been created.