The world is facing a crisis that will be written about in history books. Our lives have been disrupted, and a cloud of uncertainty looms over us all. While we are all in this together, I couldn’t help but think about my students. I miss them. As a professor at a major university, I enjoy the process of seeing students learn, mature, and blossom. Though my own kids represent the Classes of 2022 and 2025 respectively at Dacula High School (DHS), the “Class of 2020” at DHS, the University of Georgia, and all other schools resonated strongly in my thoughts today. I offer this open letter to students from this very special class.
Senior year at the collegiate and high school levels is a special time. For high school students, prom and graduation are not just random activities. They are defining moments of a generation. Seniors graduating from college have likely visualized the experience of walking across that stage, interviewing with a job recruiter in the career center, or watching March Madness. Even students receiving graduate or professional degrees cherish this time of year because it may signify the end of their academic careers.
Coronavirus is an “all-hands on deck” moment in time. I want to commend and thank decision-makers at the local, state, federal, and international levels for decisive actions. The disruption of classes, jobs, tournaments, leagues, and even routine mall shopping is an absolute necessity. Dr. Francis Collins, the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), recently laid out the case for social distancing in a blog. He wrote, “Many have wondered if we couldn’t simply protect ourselves by avoiding people with symptoms of respiratory illness. Unfortunately, the answer is no.” He also cited recent studies about the value of social distancing published in the journal Science.
As these new findings clearly demonstrate, each of us must take social distancing seriously in our daily lives. Social distancing helped blunt the pandemic in China, and it will work in other nations, including the United States. While many Americans will likely spend weeks working and studying from home and practicing other social distancing measures, the stakes remain high. If this pandemic isn’t contained, this novel coronavirus could well circulate around the globe for years to come, at great peril to us and our loved ones.
Emerging analyses from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also finds that significant numbers of hospitalizations for COVID-19 are within the age range of 20 to 44.
Many universities, colleges, and school systems have moved to some form of online instruction. At this point, I want to salute K-12 professionals and university colleagues for the flexibility, professionalism, and work ethic associated with ensuring that students continue, where possible, to learn. It is not trivial to move curriculum content and teaching methodologies from person-to-person synchronous learning environments (instruction taking place at the same time) to online synchronous and asynchronous (paced, student centric) learning environments within a matter of days to weeks. Parents have also been thrusted into the role of caretakers, providers, teachers, and para-professionals and are to be commended as well. None of this is optimal. There will be “bumps in the road.” However, I am confident that we will all get through this together.
However, the recipients of this letter is the Class of 2020. When this important year began, there is no way they could have foreseen such an anomaly event that would essentially hijack their senior year. I know many hard-working seniors may not get to participate in a commencement activity, complete their senior season in athletic competition, take that senior trip, or perform in a pinnacle concert, play, or choral event. I am a meteorologist by degree and see this as a storm rather than a shift in seasons. I will be pulling for all of you that as many of the aforementioned events as possible will be rescheduled.
On behalf of educators around the world, I salute you Class of 2020.
It’s my senior year and I, ___________, received a shout-out in Forbes.
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