Our last day of English class together was a blur. I was full of anxiety. I was collecting essays from upwards of 50 students, and thinking about how my spring break was going to be full of grading. I don’t remember much about what we did in class that day. I think I helped you put the finishing touches on your essays before submitting them. I’m not sure if my smile met my eyes when I told you to have a nice spring break. I’m not sure if I chuckled when I heard you making pipe dream plans to fly to California together because airline tickets were unusually inexpensive.
I was tired and frazzled. I certainly wasn’t feeling nostalgic or treasuring up memories of our last day together in my heart. I didn’t know that later that afternoon, I would be sitting down at an emergency staff meeting and discussing President Trump’s declaration on the news. I didn’t know that I would be trained for online learning. I didn’t know it was going to be our last day.
It was my last day of fussing at you for playing basketball with the crate that was supposed to hold everyone’s cell phones during class.
The last day of hearing you tease each other and laugh at your own silly jokes.
The last day of listening to you come up with a million reasons — each more outlandish than the last — for why we shouldn’t do any work today.
The last day of looking into each of your faces and wondering how you can look so much like adults but still have the sweet, tender hearts of little children.
You’ve been forced to grow up really quickly in the last couple of months. You’ve gotten your first taste of what college life will be like. You’ve had to figure out how to manage your schoolwork without a teacher hovering over your shoulder, and balance it with time spent helping younger siblings and working a part-time job. You’ve had to remember to check your email every day and sort through a million messages in your inbox just like a boring grown-up. You’ve had to forfeit so many fun events that you’ve been looking forward to for a long time: prom, your senior soccer season, your senior softball season, your spring theater production, awards ceremonies, passing around your very last yearbook to be signed by all your friends, and that all-encompassing, crowning achievement that you’ve been working for your whole life — your graduation ceremony.
I’ve seen a lot of complaints all over social media about seniors being robbed of their final days of high school. But you know what’s interesting? The outrage has been from the adults; none of it has been from you. The graduating class of 2020 has handled this epidemic with humility and poise. You have looked at this mess that our nation is going through and accepted it with grace. Many of you have tried to find ways to help the elderly and workers on the frontlines. You are sad, but not bitter. Shocked, but not angry. I wonder if I could have handled a disappointment like this during my senior year without pouting and protesting. It’s hard to imagine such an important milestone being unfairly ripped away.
You kids have had the most unexpected and difficult initiation into adulthood, and you have passed the test with flying colors. I dare say I have more confidence about your kindness and maturity than I have for many of the adults that have long since left the hallowed halls of their alma maters. You are wise beyond your years. You are team players. You are the bright shining hope for our future.