This morning, our high school had the first of two graduation ceremonies. Because the class is so large (around 1100 students) social distancing procedures required that graduation be split into two. Watching the first ceremony on the Internet this morning was surreal. The chairs spread out all over the football field so graduates were not too close to one another. The groups of family and friends in the stands six feet apart, every other row skipped. All of the speeches , the prayer, and the pledges prerecorded. It was definitely not a traditional graduation.
But it was a graduation. Just a few weeks ago, we weren’t sure if there would even be a ceremony.
Without fail, at the end of each school year, usually early to mid May, I’m completely burned out and ready for the school year to end. I’m ready to throw in the towel and do something different. I ask myself why I continue to teach when it just doesn’t seem worth it so much of the time.
Then, truly remarkable thing happens about mid summer. By the middle of July or so, I’m ready and raring to go. I can’t wait to get back and start the next school year. I miss everything.
I miss my coworkers. My extended (and sometimes dysfunctional) family.
I miss my classroom. My home away from home.
Mostly, I miss my students. My kids. As frustrating as teenagers can be much of the time, I can appreciate (and excuse) their youth and optimism about the world. In a way, it’s my fountain of youth. Even with the stresses it brings, teaching keeps me young at heart. It keeps me from becoming too jaded about the world we live in, which lately is an easy thing to become.
That’s why this pandemic has been so difficult for me. I never got to the burnout stage this school year. We let out for Spring Break and never went back. I’ll probably never see or talk to most of my seniors ever again, and I didn’t get to tell them goodbye in person.
I’ve never been one to give big end of the year sendoffs for my students. I don’t like getting “preachy” with them unless the times call for it. But maybe I should work a little more practical advice into my daily lessons instead of just “leading by example” like I try to tell myself I do. If I could talk to my seniors one last time, what would I say to them?
- I’m proud of you, and I’m sad for you. Proud of what you have and will accomplish in life, but sad that high school ended the way it has.
- Enjoy life. Make every day the best day ever.
- Always leave things better than they were when you got there. Leave your mark.
- Embrace the stresses that life brings you, and learn from them. Don’t shy away from life’s struggles. Face them head on.
- Enjoy the little things. Go for a walk, breathe in the fresh air, and leave your phone behind so you can actually take it all in.
- Love each other, even when it is difficult…especially when it is difficult. I truly believe that, in the end, love wins.
That’s not everything…but it’s a start.
Watching the graduation speeches this morning, I was struck by how optimistic they all were. I’m sure that’s by design, but it still gave me reason to hope. Even with the turmoil in the world today, this Class of 2020 is going to be just fine.