I am almost three times as old as the average age of my students this year.
I remember rotary phones, VHS, Walkmans, leaded gasoline, and the release of the first Star Wars movie.
I remember the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Soviet Union, Columbine, and 9/11.
This year’s graduating class did not experience those things firsthand. They will have their own life-defining moments – like the pandemic. Never in my career as a teacher have I experienced what happened with the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on schools. I sincerely hope it never happens again.
But I want to say as a teacher of seniors and as a parent of a senior who graduated last year without a traditional ceremony that I have never had as much faith in a graduating class as I have this one.
No. I am not awarding the Class of 2021 with some kind of title or moniker or designation. I am simply saying that I see in them aspects that I have not encountered before in a group of students who have had to deal with circumstances beyond control and seen them proactively do something about it.
I have not come across a group of seniors who were as excited at the opportunity to vote in elections this past year and wanted to make their voices heard. I have not come across a group of students who have performed as much service work as they have. And this class had to confront the very realities of what is important in life at an age where they can learn from it and then do something about it with others in mind.
This group thinks about the environment, health care, student debt, socioeconomics, poverty, societal dynamics, and politics in such a more open and active way.
And they are not afraid to talk to others and put actions behind words.
I tell most everyone who asks me, “What is the most difficult part of your job?” that it is the adults and never the students. Adults can get set in their ways and appeal so much to tradition and how things were done “in their day” that they forget that many things in the world change and that there exists so many other points of view and perspectives.
I hope there was a stage for each graduating senior to walk across this school year.
But considering what circumstances are like now and the world we had already given them, I don’t hope that this graduating class can thrive and make a positive impact for others.
I already know they will.