Back on March 13th, 2020 we all left school. I remember that day. It was Friday the 13th. It was the day I walked out and reasoned that it was possible I might not be back during the school year to teach in my classroom. We all left that day thinking that we’d perhaps be back in short order.
At first, we stayed at home for a bit and waited to see what would happen. We were supposed to stay at home and quarantine. I did that with my family. You did that with your family. We all waited. The news came that we wouldn’t return to school until after spring break. Many of you then cancelled those last-blast high school spring break trips. Those of you in music and other school trips found out your trip was cancelled.
Then spring break happened at home and before long, word came that we’d not be returning to school in person for the rest of the school year. It was a confounding thought: how one of the smallest microorganisms on earth could disrupt and kill one of the largest and supposedly most advanced. School was over for the year, but it really wasn’t over at all. It was just happening in a new way.
That’s the point of what I want to tell you right now. In all the sorrow we all have for the way things turned out, all of us have to pivot. We have to be ready to change, to operate our lives, our educations, our studies, our businesses, our social lives in new ways. We need to be true thinkers and innovate. Through innovation, we will discover newer and better methods for just about everything out there. We have to adapt — we have no choice.
For all that was spoiled that all of you looked forward to, I was proud of all of you. In my classes, I had almost 90% of my students complete every single assignment assigned during the shutdown. Another 8% of my students completed all but a few assignments. BTW — I have all seniors in my English classes! In class, before the shutdown, I had always told students the idea was to be consistent and keep working, keep revising, keep learning and all would turn out fine. That’s what my students did and they learned. They missed some fun, they missed seeing their peers, I hope they missed seeing me in person.
What I hope each of you takes from this moment of your graduation is that graduation is not a ceremony. It is a celebration of your accomplishment that doesn’t even really need any celebration at all beyond your own appreciation of what you’ve accomplished. What you’ve accomplished will lead you forward as you pursue your goals and dreams. Regardless of all else, remember in this time of viral infection and racial discontent that you are all one graduate as a group. You all worked together and will continue to do so across your lives, though you may be spread across the globe in your various roles, missions, and aspirations. Always uphold the education you received at our high school, your high school and my high school, and use your powers and talents to better the world around you.