April has arrived, and this time of year is usually ushered in with enthusiasm & anticipation. We’re always eager for warmer weather, outdoor BBQs, and the alluring promise of summer.
In addition to the sublime weather, however, spring is typically the most exciting & memorable time period for high school seniors and their parents.
Not only do the college acceptance letters start rolling in, but it’s supposed to be the glorious end of an era, complete with:
Award ceremonies. Senior prom. Their last varsity sports game. Senior class trips. College campus visits. Outlandish plans for Senior Cut Day. Yearbook signings. Hanging out with fellow seniors in the school cafeteria. Hell, hanging out with friends, period. GRADUATION.
This year’s high school seniors didn’t get to have those moments. Their last year of high school came to a crashing, abrupt halt. There was no closure. There won’t be any “do-overs”- no chance to make those golden memories.
A teacher’s open letter to high school seniors does acknowledge that they were “robbed” of those special moments, but it’s encouragement is what all seniors (and their parents) need right now.
Chris Dier is a world history and AP human geography teacher at Chalmette High School in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana. He was also given the honor of being named Louisiana’s Teacher Of The Year for 2020, so clearly he’s a man that’s dedicated to his craft.
Dier knows all too well what it feels like to have your senior year disrupted; his own last year of high school was thrown into chaos when Hurricane Katrina battered his hometown in 2005.
Instead of celebrating with their friends and indulging their hard-earned “senioritis” privilege, the class of 2020 has been forced to remain home as all of their senior year hopes & plans dissolve right before their eyes. And Chris Dier totally gets it.
Like all great teachers, Dier has a heart for his students. He shared his thoughts in an open letter- not just to his own high school senior students, but to ALL 2020 seniors.
This is supposed to be your year.
The year for your senior prom, sporting events, cheer competitions, senior trips, clubs, and the rest of what senior year has to offer.
While high school can be a painfully awkward time for lots of kids, senior year is the long-awaited brass ring for many- it’s supposed to be their time to shine.
This was THE year that your entire schooling was building up to.
(As the mother of a high school senior, this gave me all.the.feels.)
But it was robbed from you because of this global pandemic.
Let’s be abundantly clear – you were robbed, and it’s unfair.
There’s a prom dress hanging in my daughter’s closet that won’t be worn. She won’t get to stroll the school hallways in that slow, confident way that seniors have earned. No more decorating each others lockers for birthdays one last time.
2020’s seniors won’t get to don their caps & gowns & hear the deafening applause of their proud family members. No tossing their caps in the air & hugging childhood friends goodbye as their last moments together draw to a close.
It’s not just my daughter that’s feeling it, of course. And it’s not just our local high school, either.
America’s class of 2020 won’t get the moments in the spotlight that they all deserve- the same fun, final moments that are a cherished part of transitioning from high school to college.
Yes, this pandemic is a matter of life & death, so lost high school experiences might seem trivial in light of that. But for these young kids, those moments were their world. And their world has been shaken like a snowglobe- nothing is happening they way it was supposed to happen in their youthful worlds.
Chris Dier urges them to acknowledge that:
If you’re upset, then you should embrace those feelings. Commiserate with one another.
My heart hurts for seniors who won’t get to have their own fond memories of those last few months of high school.
This was supposed to be the good part- they’d finally arrived. They deserve to mourn the loss of that time.
As a parent, my heart breaks for my daughter & her 2020 peers. Adulthood is when we face the often gritty realities & responsibilities of life. And while we’ve been preparing our children for that world, the coronavirus shoved that reality down their throats all too soon.
They all deserved that last bit of carefree joy, and the chance to savor their childhood friendships before parting ways onto different paths.
They deserved for this to be the best year of their lives- to celebrate everything they’ve worked for.
And we as parents deserved to watch it unfold, with a mix of emotions, tons of photos, & perhaps sentimental tears. 2020’s parents were robbed of those joyous memories, too.
But it’s not just the seniors and their parents that are feeling it- the teachers hurt, too.
We are all in crisis mode but know that we are all doing everything we can to help during this tumultuous time.
You are not forgotten. We are thinking about you. We are here for you. We care.
Chris Dier doesn’t leave seniors licking their wounds, however. While he urges them to acknowledge what’s lost, he also offers some invaluable encouragement.
In Dier’s eyes, these seniors can handle this crisis, because:
Your generation can navigate multiple worlds and bounce between physical and digital spaces with ease.
(Any parent who has fumbled with the recent shift to online learning as their teen seamlessly adapts knows this to be true!)
You courageously put yourselves out there for the world to see and criticize. You push boundaries and challenge norms.
While the circumstances could leave our seniors feeling powerless, Chris Dier suggests that they empower themselves in any way possible.
Their lives aren’t over, though some may feel that way right now.
It’s still only the beginning for them; while one phase of their lives might be ending, another is still just beginning.
He urges them to HELP. Help their families. Stay connected to one another via social media. Start a hobby. Journal. Make a podcast.
And his most poignantly powerful reminder:
You’re living through history. Your bold reaction to this is going to make history.
This isn’t the senior year anyone expected or asked for. But it’s what they do with it -and what we, as their parents, support them to do- that will make all the difference.
The current state of affairs isn’t what any of us want for our kids, but it’s currently our reality. And while we all feel the sting of losing our “normal”, we can still encourage our children to make their mark on the world.
As Chris Dier eloquently put it:
There is no pandemic strong enough to silence you or dent the passion of your generation.
Keep your head up and keep fighting. Our country needs you because you provide hope for our future.
*cue the ugly-cry*
Senior parents, our hearts can still hurt for our kids.
We wanted them to have their time in the sun- we wanted to savor the memories of the expected rites of passage. While we can’t replace what’s lost, we can equip our kids to have hope & strength for their future.
The seniors of 2020 might not get their day in the sun (graduation & such), but they are still shining lights in our world.
As a senior parent, I thank educators like Chris Dier for caring about our children far beyond the walls of the classroom.
To read Chris Dier’s letter in full, please visit his website, ChrisDier.com.