Class of 2021,
This past August, we opened the school year like no other. Instead of opening my classroom door, I opened a Zoom and instead of meeting you all in person, I met you through these screens. It was the first day of eighth grade, and I worried you might not come. But you logged on, and you said hi when I called your names. And then, to my surprise, you kept coming. On Zoom. Day after long day.
Back in August, we were still feeling our way through this pandemic. We were hoping for the best and we learned not to look too far ahead. It was too hard to think about the possibility of disappointment, so I didn’t allow myself to think about today, your graduation day.
But now it is June, and time has a funny way of just carrying on.
This past November we took time to write novels and it seems like so long ago. Fast forward to April, we paused to write poems in little four-minute increments. Minutes, class periods, days, weeks, months. A school year.
The musical Rent asks how we measure time: “In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee. In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife. In 525,600 minutes - how do you measure a year in the life? Seasons of love,”
Last summer, we stayed home to try to keep our city safe. In fall there was an election and then in winter an insurrection as cases in LA surged, I learned not to ask too many questions of you. Students and families were dealing with COVID, and so many of us were grieving loss.
It has been a long year, four long seasons, but spring is here and the waves of vaccines have begun. Doors have started to crack open again and we have continued to show up in little fits and spurts, to learn, and to be together in these strange learning communities. We made it through this year together, and in ways that are completely unique to this class of 2021.
And now, it’s over. A few of you have come back in person, but most stayed home, and as we reflect on this wild, wild, year, I hope you all measure this year by all you have learned. Maybe your English hasn’t developed the way it might have had we been in school in person, maybe your math feels a little shaky and your science lab skills uncertain, maybe you feel a little soft from no PE running days, but you have made it through a year we will never forget, even though we might like to.
What your learning reflects is a deep compassion. You seem to really understand that the struggle is real and everyone single one of us is struggling through. You know if someone’s camera is off, they probably have a good reason, and that even though someone else's struggle isn’t your own, you can still empathize with their circumstances.
There is no room for regret for what this year might have been, and as Ralph Waldo Emerson says “It is about your outlook towards life. You can either regret or rejoice.”
With this next season and in all the seasons to come, you get to choose: regret or rejoice. Thank you for teaching me how to see and feel regret and to still choose joy. Today it’s your day. And as Charles Bukowski says,
“Your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight