Getting to the End of a Rocky Road
Born in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, most seniors this year were first graders during the housing crash and subsequent recession. And as they grew up, social media exploded and the country suffered its worst period for mass school shootings in American history, with more than 300 students and staff casualties at more than 65 campus shootings since 2017.
All of this would be plenty to reflect upon as they complete their K-12 careers and begin to reflect on what comes next. But now the new Coronavirus has disrupted their lives, replacing the excitement of their senior year with burning questions.
What’s on Their Minds
The Remaining School Year?
Seniors across the country are anxious about what will become with the rest of the academic year, now that schools are closed. Will the schoolwork they are doing now mean anything? What about the class trip, graduation, and prom?
And What about College?
About 1 in 4 seniors and juniors are rethinking college plans due to COVID-19 closures, according to a new 50-state survey. And for those who plan to go ahead with their college plans, the coronavirus pandemic has made the anxiety-ridden experience of selecting a college that more difficult as campus visits have been replaced with virtual tours and admission deadlines keep getting pushed back.
Will there be Jobs?
As unemployment continues to skyrocket and the economy becomes increasingly unsteady, it will be that much more difficult for students who intended to go directly into the workforce from high school. If those with far more credentials and experience are losing their jobs, what can high school seniors hope to find?
Helping Them Cope
Dealing With a Range of Emotions
Under normal circumstances, teenagers’ emotions swing in many directions, sometimes in but a matter of moments. Be prepared, for your teen is very angry and sad that the remainder of the senior year is canceled. And know that those attempts to remind them that everyone is in the same boat will invariably fail to assuage them.
It is essential to realize that there will be ups and downs. There is nothing linear about this. And when you think that they are “getting it,” the grumpiness and frustration may return as if it had never left. The key is to be overflowing with sensitivity and empathy for all of those “last times” that will never happen.
Fully acknowledge that this is a Big Deal
Instead of minimizing or attempting to sweep their feelings under the rug, allow seniors to express the fullness of their emotions even though they may seem overly dramatic to you. Recognize that you have the benefit of a life perspective that has been formulated through years of experience which they lack.
For many seniors, this is a time of grief, akin to losing a family member or close friend. And they don’t know how to process it. Be sure to acknowledge their pain fully, and meet it with genuine compassion.
Make Your Peace with Their Social Media
Whatever your position on social media was beforehand, recognize that for many of these seniors, it may be what is keeping them sane in this time of uncertainty and sadness. Not to mention that it may be that holding them in the house is safer than being outside with friends, who could be exposing them to the Coronavirus.
Gently Share Perspective: A Letter That Really Says It
Perhaps there has been no more eloquent message than the letter that Chris Dier, recently selected as the 2020, Louisiana State Teacher of the Year, recently penned. Below is an excerpt from that letter. Click here for the entire text.
Dear High School Senior,
On Friday afternoon, a few seniors came into my classroom after the last bell rang. They were concerned about prom and their senior trip. It broke my teacher heart to listen. As you’re reading this, you most likely have similar concerns.
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. This was THE year that your entire schooling was building up to. But it was robbed from you because of this global pandemic.
I, for one, will not downplay it as it happened to me. Hurricane Katrina devastated my community when I was a high school senior. I remember leaving my school on a Friday afternoon with my buddies only to never return to that school. I was supposed to be the captain of my soccer team, go to prom with my longtime crush, and finish the year with my lifelong friends. But it was all canceled. Instead, I stayed in a shelter and finished high school in a different state. It was hard, but we made it through. And I’m reliving that pain as I think of your disruption to your senior year.
There’s nothing I, or anyone, can say to make up for that time you are losing in what is supposed to be one of the best years of your life.
But I can offer some encouragement. Right now, you have the power to make the most out of this unfortunate situation. If a decade of teaching has taught me anything, it’s that people your age are resilient and innovative. Your generation can navigate multiple worlds and bounce between physical and digital spaces with ease. You push boundaries and challenge norms. You find ingenious ways to compensate for any gaps you may have accrued without the help of educators.
I can also offer some advice. Help one another and your family. They need you. Do your grandparents or your elderly neighbors need groceries? Offer support. We need you. Utilize your tech-savvy ways to bring yourselves closer together. Practice “social distancing,” or physical distancing, but stay as social as ever. Make memes. Exercise. Read books. Reach out to those friends you know don’t have internet access. Call and check up on them. Listen to podcasts. Make a podcast. You’re living through history. Your bold reaction to this is going to make history.
Lastly, I can offer some support. You may not know me, but I feel your pain; it stings. We as educators mourn with you. Again, you are not forgotten. We see your hard work. We value your unique perspectives. We hear your audacious voices. We cherish all of it, and we will continue to do so even from afar.
I am sad for you; truly, I am. I feel deeply for you; truly, I do. It makes my heart hurt as I write. But if there is any group that can plow through this in creative ways, it is your group. 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. This year may not be what you envisioned, but I’m eager to see what you do with it.
After all, it is still very much your year.
Chris Dier, a high school teacher
Help Your Students Cope with the Crisis
The response to the COVID-19 Pandemic is unprecedented. Because of our unique role in children’s K-12 education, we feel a responsibility to do what we can to assist schools, therapists and students with this transition to online learning and seclusion.
To ensure that our students remain engaged and supported, our therapists are providing complimentary “Support Sessions” to the country’s youth. One of our support sessions addresses the topic of the cancellation of the senior year. We are also assisting schools by training their therapists for remote therapy.