Thinking back to the summer of 2019, I would have never imagined the final quarter of the 2019 – 2020 school year ending like this. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is devastating on so many levels for teachers, students, and parents. Social distancing and shutdown of cities or states has completely changed our social norm. It’s hard for me, as a teacher, to not be able to help my scholars and parents truly close out the school year the way we planned. However, as a former high school teacher, I know the importance of spring activities, especially for seniors.
The thoughts of not having high school graduation for the Class of 2020 is damning to education!
It’s heartbreaking for students, parents, and educators at the thoughts of students not being able to have a graduation ceremony. I read a post from one of my high school classmates whose son is a Class of 2020 graduate. “I am heartbroken for my son, his struggles, accomplishments and sacrifices made to get to this year. There are no words.” These words came as a response to Governor Kemp’s decision to close schools the remainder of the year due to COVID-19. As a family member, I have cousins and god children who are most likely not going to have a traditional graduation ceremony or anything at all. My great grandmothers being at my high school graduation was a highlight for me. Something they were not able to do, they witnessed through my siblings and me as three generations of graduates.
Graduation is a milestone that every child seeks to accomplish starting in Pre-K. Many first generation graduates won’t have that long time goal fulfilled.
Graduation is an universal academic celebration. It’s a common social activity that celebrates the closing of the academic journey from Pre-K – 12 grade. I think about the students who worked hard to excel and beat the odds as much as the students who struggled to make it to the finish line. We are all sitting on the edge of our seats anticipating what plans school districts will roll out for graduation.
Many Georgia school districts have not set plans for high school graduations. Whatever decisions that are being considered should come from all stakeholders. I would like to see us be creative. We can use billboards that communities and alumni purchase to honor our graduates from local high schools. Community organizations and alumni of the schools can connect with counseling departments to help assist virtual career day and college prep sessions to continue the excitement of preparing for graduation. Schools should consider creating celebratory videos and having them shown on the local news stations. It would even be cool to see if schools can create a virtual stage that can used to show scholars walking on the stage. Whatever is decided upon will not take the place of human physical connection but will allow us to uphold the important milestone of completing grade school.
Very few public school districts are using innovative ways to continue the tradition of graduation.
KIPP Soul Primary in Atlanta recently had parents and students who missed their teacher so badly the families drove to a local mall parking, parked their cars, and were able to wave at their teachers who did a driving parade. Perhaps the graduates can do a driving graduation where they can drive through their school’s parking lot while being handed their certificate holders. We can be creative about how K-12 graduations are handled, but simply canceling them shouldn’t be the sole option. Teachers, parents, and students need an opportunity to celebrate the academic achievements and success of students who have worked hard to make it to the finish line.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.