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2020 Graduates: This Is Not What Anyone Wanted, But You Got This!

I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, and LGBT advocacy.

2020 Grads: Rule Your World!

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Teachers, Students Wish For Something Different

This is for the graduating class of 2020.

As a teacher, I sincerely wish that things could have turned out differently. While I can't speak for all teachers, I could probably humbly guess that graduation is one of our favorite times of the year. There's something magical about watching you cross that stage, shake your principal or vice principal's hand, and go back to your seat with a big grin on your face, knowing that there are bigger things ahead of you. We hear the parents in the background of every grad ceremony, cheering for you and applauding, and we teachers are in the crowd, smiling and watching you walk your way into your future.

This year's ceremony will look and feel very different, and I know that's a terrible disappointment. You've missed out on a great deal in a very short time - prom and now graduation - and while your families are I'm sure planning their own private celebration to honor you and your hard work, it's definitely not the same as knowing your friends are sitting shoulder to shoulder with you in the cap and gown. I know there are signs going out to graduates from a variety of schools, and that's a wonderful acknowledgement of all your hard work to get to this point, but simply put, it's not the same as a full-blown grad ceremony, and we know that.

We teachers wish mightily it could have been different. We wish we could have been in the classrooms with you, slugging through the work as you wonder how much longer it would be until the end of June and someone handed you your high school diploma. We wish we could have stood at the front of those classrooms, listening to your excited buzz as you eagerly anticipated prom or the parties after that.

We wish we could have had those last verbal exchanges with you before you walked out the doors of your school for the last time as an elementary or high school student, briefly remembering our own excitement and nervousness about heading off to high school or on our post-secondary career paths. We know that your first few months in your new educational setting might look very different, and perhaps might feel somewhat disappointing. Gone are the memories of meeting your first few friends in residence as a first-year in September, and while you might be able to head to residence in January, that, too, will look very different - or so I have heard.

Perhaps most disappointing is the knowledge that your contact with the people you've come to know in the last four years (or 9 or so years in elementary school, including kindergarten) is now limited. Social distancing is in full effect, gatherings above five people are forbidden (at least in the province of Ontario for the foreseeable future), and one thing you may want to do is give your buddies a hug and say, "we did it!" Right now, there can be no parties like that and like you've probably attended in years past, not unless you're willing to pay a substantial fine, and you might have a sense that you somehow have been robbed in what should be the most memorable time of your life thus far.

Well, no one can say that the spring and early summer of 2020 has been anything but memorable, to be sure, but I want to take a moment and remind you of a few things.

First of all, nothing - not even a virus - can take away from your accomplishments. You worked hard to get here and I'd bet probably had more than a few challenges on the way to getting your diploma. Don't let something even on the magnitude of a global pandemic rob you of the joy you should feel in accomplishing something as significant as graduating elementary or high school.

Secondly, don't ignore the level of resilience you had to rely on to get to this point. This year alone - again, as far as the province of Ontario has been concerned - has been fraught with educator job action and now, COVID-19. You've undoubtedly had to readjust your whole way of learning just to survive the last few months, and probably had to go so far as to establish a schedule that you could work with in order to get through your schoolwork. You've likely had to ask for help from your teachers and your parents, and you may not have been comfortable doing either, as it's uncomfortable at times to ask for help. Be proud that you've even done that, as that takes some courage.

Finally, remember that out of even the most imperfect of circumstances great situations can arise. You and your friends are part of a historic graduation, and that is a story you can share for generations to come. You can look at yourself in the mirror with pride and realize you got yourself through a less-than-ideal situation and came out the other side. I realize some of you might have larger issues in your life than a global pandemic - parental employment, a less than stellar home life - but graduating during a pandemic is something that only this year's class can look back on and say, "Well, it was tough, but we did it!"

As a teacher and a parent myself, I understand how painful this situation might be, but I am proud of you for having gotten through this.

Be proud, class of 2020. You made it.