Life during a pandemic is challenging. While happy that I’m retired and was able to skip whatever the teachers have had to go through, I’ve felt a great sense of loss for the nation’s students. And I’ve watched as school districts have knocked it out of the park to give these kids a special graduation experience. But, I must admit, there are times when I think that these kids need to suck it up a bit and deal with these unprecedented situations. Many of the kids I see parading around town don’t wear masks nor do they social distance. This applies to all ages of kids. I’m not here to get on my soapbox about that. I’ve looked online at scads of photos posted by the local school district (where I taught for 25 years) of this year’s graduation(s), done in small groups of 40 students ( graduating class of 385), and couldn’t help but think it was a much more personal experience.
I attended and/or worked at more than half of the graduations during my teaching career. I was more and more disenchanted with graduation ceremonies as time passed on due to youthfully exuberant student activities like batting beach balls around, spraying silly string, use of squirt guns, etc. I guess I’m old fashioned and feel graduation is a milestone event and should be somewhat dignified. I stopped attending when a graduate’s grandmother came and yelled at me for confiscating a squirt gun (as was part of my responsibility). It was a super soaker, not just a tiny squirt gun. Another year found me telling a student to extinguish a cigarette and was told, “go the hell, we aren’t on school property.” Thankfully a male school administrator overheard and took care of the situation.
This year’s graduates showed me that it wasn’t all about them. They donated money saved for prom venue and activities to charity. They took all of this in stride and negotiated the last few months of the school year in isolation. Yes, they complained about missing out on the traditional activities but I think they will find it makes their graduation all the more meaningful for them. Maybe “traditional” graduation ceremonies need to be reconsidered. They seem to have lost their meaning. Schools had to think outside the box this year. My belief is they were very successful. I know there were many other activities that were related to honoring the seniors and they seemed great fun and momentous in their own way. Best of luck to all 2020 graduates, but especially to those of my home district.