I am a high school teacher in NKC Schools, but before you call me a district homer or cheerleader, also know that I have a senior in the district.
Obviously, it’s been an incredibly emotional last four weeks since spring break for seniors and their families, as event after event got postponed, changed, or cancelled. But the final blow happened yesterday when it was announced that the graduation ceremony would happen virtually.
Despite all of this adversity, I believe that we have an incredible opportunity in front of us, if we choose to seize it. If we, as seniors and their families, channel our energy properly, this could be the greatest graduation ever.
Let’s take what superintendent Dr. Clemens said at face value. If it is true that Clay County has said that a traditional ceremony won’t be possible even through July, then the other districts who have rescheduled their events are going to have to resort to Plan C. They may have made decisions too soon and will be forced to scramble and regroup a second time. Some may argue that even having a rescheduled date on the books shows other districts valued a traditional graduation more than ours (well, I don’t believe that’s true), BUT the way our district structured this situation, I believe there still might be a 0.000001% chance of a traditional graduation yet. I’ll get to that later.
So, let’s operate under the assumption that a traditional ceremony is not possible. Some people will never accept that because the unknown is scary. As adults, all we know is what happened in our past. Traditional ceremonies and rites of passage are critical in our society.
BUT, instead of focusing on what has happened in the past, what if we were to focus on the future and what is POSSIBLE. Instead of focusing our energy on fighting the unknown, let’s embrace it! Many people have said that our graduating seniors are going to go into the world needing to be incredible problem solvers and will have jobs that haven’t even been invented yet. Isn’t this situation the PERFECT laboratory to send our seniors off into the world by problem solving and creating something the world has never seen before?
What if we were to use all of our creative juices, thoughts, and ideas as seniors and adults and work together to create a ceremony that will forever be unique and memorable in the minds of our seniors and their families? This school year has obviously been the most unforgettable in history. Why would we want a ceremony that’s just like every other ceremony?
Also, let’s project into the future a bit. Fast forward to the 10-year or 25-year class reunion. Now, there’s some of us adults who love our class reunions, but there’s a lot more people that are indifferent or even dislike them. I believe that this class will cherish their reunions a lot more and have more lifelong friends and relationships because they will forever have a unique bond of having a non-traditional graduation and not having the opportunity to celebrate with their classmates, among other things. Personally, at my reunions, I only associate with the people who were in my social circles and that’s it. I think when any members of the Class of 2020 happen to see each other on the street years from now, no matter what cliques they were in, they will have that unspoken bond that will be distinctive to this group only. In this age of social media taking away face-to-face communication, that will definitely be something to value.
Lastly, I did mention earlier, that there still might be a chance of a traditional graduation. The district set up “diploma presentations” for the last week of July at each school where ceremonies and photo opportunities will occur for half of each senior class at a time. I don’t have any proof and this is just my theory, but I believe there was a reason for utilizing that model.
Let’s just say that the CDC lets up on their guidelines and Clay County reverses course by the end of July. It is going to be MUCH easier to take our partial class diploma presentations and put them together to have a traditional graduation ceremony maybe in an outdoor venue–as opposed to scheduling a traditional ceremony, only to have that event thwarted again forcing families to reschedule open houses and parties and rearranging family members coming in from out of town all over again, among other things, that will cause more stress and inconvenience.
Call me crazy, but I would much rather deal with bad news now, then be surprised later on if it turns out to not be as bad as we think versus being disappointed a second time if graduation is cancelled again. But as I said earlier, that scenario has only a 0.000001% chance of happening.
So, we have a chance to blow up the traditional model and create something brand new from the ashes. We have one shot to create something that not only will be memorable for the Class of 2020, but our thoughts and actions could have a positive impact on all future graduating classes as well as recorded history. So, what are we going to do?