I was supposed to listen to our class president give her speech. I was supposed to hear our valedictorian commemorate a traditional rite of passage. I was supposed to hear a board member confer degrees on our graduates. I was supposed to have one final opportunity to say each student’s name as they walked across the stage. I was supposed to hug my son after he received his diploma.
Because I am a Class of 2020 advisor. And I am also a father.
Four years I ago, the Class of 2020 entered Sparrows Point High School as young, impressionable freshmen. I offered to undertake, for the very first time, the arduous task of leading that class. Having never advised a class of several hundred students, I knew not what to expect. During the last four years, I coordinated dances, fundraisers, proms (well, prom singular unfortunately), meetings and other various and sundry events necessary for the celebration of a high school class.
Because I am a teacher and a coach.
Four years of memories
I worked with so many of the students in our graduating class at some point, either in my classroom or on the playing field. We laughed together, we cried together, we argued and irritated each other, and we hugged and high fived along the way. I watched this class pep and cheer at homecoming football games. I watched them put together beautiful performances on our auditorium stage. I watched them struggle in the classroom and I watched them lose on the playing field. But then, on many occasions, I got to be there when they won, an A on a difficult math test or a tough victory in the state playoff.
Because I am a mentor and, yes, sometimes even a “school dad.”
This class is inescapably linked for perpetuity by the simple phrase, the Class of 2020. This class won’t get their “lasts,” their last class, their last home game, their last performance, their last test, their last ride to school, their last prom or their last ceremony.
As their advisor, what I wouldn’t give for the gift of magic to undo all of that for them. They deserve their celebration. They are our future teachers, medical professionals, technicians, engineers, designers, law enforcement officers, lawyers and leaders. But that all should have waited until they had their last dance.
Because the world won’t stop.
This strange time
All I can do now is hug my own son and tell him how proud I am of his accomplishments. I won’t mention how, if I had known that time would pass so fleetingly, that I wouldn’t have dared missed that game or refused to drive him to that friend’s house. Through the haze of the myriad of games and performances and dances, the memories will be clear and beautiful. I just wish I had a few more to share with him. And them.
I have 240 sons and daughters from this experience. I have new adult friends who emerged from hours of conferences and emails and text messages. I have an extended family now. I have college games to travel to and surprise campus visits to make. And I hope, I will have birthdays and holidays to celebrate for many years to come.
Because right now is tough.
Hope for the future
Over the next several weeks, my son and his class will celebrate virtually. There will be Facebook posts and YouTube videos, and hopefully unique celebrations that honor our graduates. There will likely be small graduation parties and gifts. I will send hundreds of congratulatory emails and text messages to students who I have known for years, some since elementary school. I will deliver caps, gowns, yearbooks and gifts to this senior class, as is the responsibility of class advisors in high schools everywhere.
Because we can’t touch right now.
While I will want to give one last hug or high five, I won’t. But I will remind them all that sometime soon when their world returns to normal, and they return to visit my classroom or I see them at a performance or I catch them at a game, that hug or high five is coming.
Jonathan Wynne is a science and AVID teacher at Sparrows Point High School. He is also a coach and the senior class advisor.