Graduation, commencement, walk-up; it doesn’t matter what you call it, it has special meaning in the lives of teens and their families. I have been the parent of a grad once already. It was stressful, exhilarating, emotional and overwhelming. All of those things were made more special by the celebrations that came one after another: family events, prom, dry grad, convocation. I have video of the hats being thrown and my oldest son in big groups of people with whom he had spent the last 5 years. It lasted a few months of his life, and this family will never forget those celebrations.
This year is a little different. My youngest son does not have all those events to look forward to. Day by day, we have been notified of events being cancelled. Grandparents will not travel to attend his ceremony, and we will not sit in an audience in a theatre. He will not have Instagram-worthy photos to post of his friends, classmates and teachers as they stand arm in arm, caps and gowns on, celebrating the end of a hard fought journey towards adulthood.
As a teacher, I ask: What are the lessons in this? What can be learned? Will the grads of 2020 be remembered with pity as the poor kids who missed out? Or is it possible that their loss is gaining them a resiliency and strength that will be their legacy? Although this is especially difficult for the class of 2020, we have all discovered new strengths, skill sets and problem-solving abilities. Faced with these overwhelming changes, we have all had to adapt and embrace innumerable challenges that we could never have predicted. As adults, we are mourning the loss of many things, we are missing our routine and we are exhausted by the challenges of technology.
As I navigate the muddy waters on which COVID has sent us afloat, I consider the resilience of the grads of 2020. I consider what they have lost that they will not get back, that which they have looked forward to for 13 long years of schooling. I consider my youngest son with simultaneous sadness for him, but also pride in his ability to accept, to embrace and to adapt. For that I thank you, teachers of NLPS. For giving him that skill as you have focused your efforts on the life skills that are really important for each of them uniquely. The grads of 2020 will persevere, because their teachers have taught them to do that.
Also, I hope he gets a cool cap and gown to keep.