Last week I felt more pride and joy than I have felt in months, maybe years. I have been to over 35 graduations in my lifetime, so I had no expectations as I walked into The Pavillion, the same venue our school celebrated its class of 2021 last May. The class of 2021 spent 1.25 years navigating a pandemic, about 30% of their high school experience. The 2021 graduation was subdued, with families sitting in small groups, spread out from other families. Elderly and immunocompromised family members watched the graduation via livestream at home. I remember very few, if any, alums in attendance unless they were directly connected to a graduate.
The class of 2022 spent 2.25 years navigating a pandemic — over 50% of their high school experience. The Pavillion was packed. The speeches were inspiring. And when it came time for the “walk across the stage moment” which I have taken for granted for most of my life, hearing each name called and watching each graduate walk so proudly back to their seat, folio in hand, made my heart swell. They made it. And this past academic year it was all uphill. After 1.25 years of waived state testing requirements, taking classroom assessments “at home” with no supervision, extended deadlines, and all the other accommodations, in 2021-2022 everything counted for the class of 2022 for the first time since they were in ninth grade.
As teachers, we were the ones on the front lines, ensuring that all students, including the classes of 2023, 2024 and 2025, mastered the expected material so they could have this moment. And I promise you, IT WAS NOT EASY, for them or for us. 2021-2022 was probably my most difficult of my 32 years teaching. But experiencing Graduation 2022 felt like I was watching some sort of joyous miracle. After the ceremony, (and actually before the ceremony) I saw SO MANY former students. The lack of contact with former students has been the salt in the pandemic wound for me, because their appreciation is what has helped keep me going for so many years.
My goal this summer is to write some more in an effort to understand what we have collectively experienced since March 2020. But now, I must return to cleaning and packing my classroom!